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UN Secretary-General Guterres Says Omicron Travel Restrictions Deeply Unfair & Punitive

The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday said that COVID-19 related travel restrictions that isolate any one country or region are not only deeply unfair and punitive, but they are ineffective too, reported Reuters.

Guterres told reporters in New York that the only way to reduce the risk of transmission while allowing for travel and economic engagement was to repeatedly test travelers with appropriate and truly effective measures.

“We have the instruments to have safe travel. Let’s use those instruments to avoid this kind of, allow me to say, travel apartheid, which I think is unacceptable,” the UN Secretary-General said.

The new coronavirus variant was first identified in southern Africa, triggering many countries across the world, including the United States and Britain, to announce travel curbs and other restrictions on the region. African countries have some of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates globally due to a lack of access to vaccines.

The UN Secretary General has long warned about the dangers of vaccine inequality around the world and that low immunization rates are a breeding ground for more coronavirus variants.

After a meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Group of 77 (G77) and China at the UN headquarters in New York, Guterres reiterated the World Health Organization’s goal of vaccinating 40 percent of people in all countries by the end of 2021, and 70 percent by the middle of 2022, and stated that the UN stands behind the organization’s vaccination strategy.

African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat said the travel bans are not justified at the joint news conference with Guterres after the annual meeting between the United Nations and the African Union.

He said there was no common sense or scientific reasoning behind the travel bans, especially since it has been learned that it existed in many places long before South African scientists isolated it.

Caroline Finnegan

A professionnal journalist for the past ten years, I cover global news and economic affairs for The Chief Observer.

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