Nov. 30, 2021

WHO advice for international traffic in relation to the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant (B.1.1.529)

WHO has issued advice to countries on travel, given the circulation of Omicron variant.

WHO commends South Africa and Botswana for the speed and transparency with which they notified and shared information on Omicron, allowing other countries to rapidly adjust their response.     

While scientific research is underway to understand how the variant behaves, WHO advises the following (see document for full list): 

  • Countries should continue to apply an evidence-informed and risk-based approach when implementing travel measures in accordance with the IHR.  
  • National authorities may apply a multi-layered risk mitigation approach to potentially delay the exportation or importation of the new variant.   
  • Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods. In addition, they can adversely impact global health efforts during a pandemic by disincentivizing countries to report and share epidemiological and sequencing data. 
  • All travellers should remain vigilant for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, get vaccinated when it is their turn and adhere to public health and social measures at all times. 

As of 28 November 2021, 56 countries were reportedly implementing travel measures aimed at potentially delaying the importation of the new variant.