Omicron threat: Travel measures taken to stop spread are already too late, say experts

06:31 PM Dec 05, 2021 | FPJ Web Desk

With the emergence of the new coronavirus strain 'Omicron', several countries hurriedly imposed strict travel measures to contain the spread. However, an expert has said the restrictions will "do little" to stop the spread of the new variant.

Professor Willem Hanekom from the Africa Health Research Institute has said the new travel restrictions in the United Kingdom (UK) will "do little" to stop the spread of the Omicron variant.


Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr, Hanekome said experience shows that the the travel curbs would have ''exactly the opposite effect.''


Also, UK government adviser Professor Mark Woolhouse was of the same opinion. He said it was "too late to make a material difference".

"I think that may be a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted," Woolhouse said.

"If Omicron is here in the UK, and it certainly is, if there's community transmission in the UK, and it certainly looks that way, then it's that community transmission that will drive a next wave. The cases that are being imported are important, we want to detect those and isolate any positive cases we find, as we would for any case anywhere. But I think it's too late to make a material difference to the course of the Omicron wave if we're going to have one," he added.

UK adds pre-departure travel tests, bans travel from Nigeria

The UK has re-introduced compulsory pre-departure tests for all travellers entering the country and added Nigeria to its travel ban red list amid fears of the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. The UK government said on Saturday that new analysis conducted by the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) indicates that the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for the Omicron variant, which increases the efficacy of pre-departure testing as it is more likely to identify positive cases before travel.

Therefore, starting Tuesday morning, anyone arriving in the UK is required to provide a pre-booked negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or lateral flow test - taken no earlier than 48 hours before departure. This applies to vaccinated passengers and children aged 12 and above.

"We knew this winter would be challenging but the arrival of a new variant means we must further strengthen our defences," said UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

"As our world-leading scientists continue to understand more about the Omicron variant we are taking decisive action to protect public health and the progress of our COVID-19 vaccination programme. I urge everyone to do their bit to slow the spread by following the new travel rules, wearing masks where mandatory and most importantly getting the booster jab when called," he said.

Under current rules, travellers only needed to self-isolate until they tested negative within two days of arriving into the country.

(With PTI inputs)

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