Over-60s have been urged to rethink travel to risky areas, as the Omicron variant makes its way around the globe.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued the warning as countries and states learn more about the mutant variant. While it may sound ominous, it’s really only advising travellers to steer clear of areas with community transmission.
“Persons who are unwell, or who have not been fully vaccinated or do not have proof of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection and are at increased risk of developing severe disease and dying, including people 60 years of age or older … should be advised to postpone travel to areas with community transmission,” the WHO said in a statement.
However, WHO doesn’t want “blanket travel bans” issued, saying it will not prevent the international spread of the disease, but will “place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods”.
“In addition, they can adversely impact global health efforts during a pandemic by disincentivising countries to report and share epidemiological and sequencing data,” said the WHO.
“All countries should ensure that the measures are regularly reviewed and updated when new evidence becomes available on the epidemiological and clinical characteristics of Omicron or any other VOC.”
Australia is now closed to South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, the Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique. Australians’ returning from these nations are required to quarantine for two weeks.
The ACT, NSW and Victoria also now require 72 hours of home isolation for all international arrivals.
Visitors from NSW to South Australia will need to be tested on arrival.
NSW is home to most recorded cases of the new variant, with health authorities concerned it was acquired via community transmission.
Sydney epidemiologist Professor Alexandra Martiniuk says any new restrictions may have very little effect, as Omicron has already invaded more than 20 countries and could already be here in much larger numbers.
“Initially it made sense because it appeared like it was a ‘southern African’ variant and that would be where we would see the majority of cases, but then data came to light that it was in more than 20 countries,” she said.
“At this point, it is possible to have people coming in from any part of the world with Omicron.”
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