In the wake of the Omicron outbreak, health officials from across the European Union are due to meet on Tuesday to discuss removing a travel ban on South Africa and several other southern African countries.
Travel between Europe and South Africa may be fully restored in a matter of weeks if the proposal is granted.
Late last month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged on EU Member States to halt all travel to variant hotspots, beginning with South Africa and Botswana, because the two nations had just warned the world about the Omicron variant’s threat.
Despite criticism from the World Health Organization (WHO), which claims that travel restrictions do little to stem the spread of new variants but stigmatize and punish countries that raise the alarm about newly found Coronavirus variants, most of Europe followed the travel ban advise.
According to Bloomberg, the EU hopes to replace a blanket travel ban with a condition that all travelers from the region submit to a negative pre-departure PCR test.
The necessity for a pre-departure test would apply to both unvaccinated and fully vaccinated travelers. Member states are permitted to disregard official EU guidance and impose additional stumbling blocks, such as quarantine regulations.
Despite the fact that the variation has already been discovered in numerous EU nations, Von der Leyen earlier stated that she wanted Europe to be able to travel from all Omicron hotspots regardless of where they were discovered.
Omicron was apparently present in Europe for at least a few weeks before South African scientists discovered the version. If Omicron continues on its current path in South Africa, it will soon become the dominant strain throughout Europe, rendering travel restrictions practically useless.
However, the decision to relax the travel ban could be taken before scientists have a better understanding of the exact harm that Omicron poses. The variant appears to be more transmissible than prior variants, and it may be more resistant to vaccination than the dominant Delta strain.
Omicron, on the other hand, appears to show as a mild infection that does not necessitate hospitalization in fully vaccinated people. For unprotected or inadequately vaccinated people, the variation looks to be quite hazardous.