UN chief Guterres slams isolation of southern Africa over Omicron

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed deep concern about the isolation of southern Africa after travel bans were imposed by many countries over the new Omicron variant.

“I appeal to all governments to consider repeated testing for travellers, together with other appropriate and truly effective measures, with the objective of avoiding the risk of transmission so as to allow for travel and economic engagement,” Guterres said in a statement on Monday.

The Omicron variant of coronavirus carries a very high global risk of surges, the World Health Organisation warned on Monday, as more countries reported cases.

Omicron was first identified in southern Africa.

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Many countries, including the United States and Britain, have announced travel curbs and other restrictions on the region.

Africa has some of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates worldwide due to a lack of access to doses.

Guterres has long warned about the dangers of vaccine inequality around the world and that low immunization rates are “a breeding ground for variants.”

“The people of Africa cannot be blamed for the immorally low level of vaccinations available in Africa – and they should not be penalized for identifying and sharing crucial science and health information with the world,” he said.

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