The African Union (AU) has warned that travel and entry bans, in connection with the emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, will limit the free movement of people and goods.
The 55-member pan-African bloc, in a statement on Wednesday, said that the prohibitions had imposed immediate and significant impact on African countries.
It called for the urgent rescinding of travel bans placed on African countries, following the detection of the Omicron variant.
“Current evidence, which underscores global spread and community transmission of the Omicron variant, does not support selective travel bans imposed on Southern African countries.
“Penalising African countries for ensuring timely and transparent data dissemination, in accordance with international health regulations, is potentially posing a threat to health security on the continent and globally,” it said.
The AU stressed that recent travel and entry bans were imposing an adverse impact on the economy, which would negatively affect the lives and livelihoods of the populations concerned.
It further indicated that the travel ban had limited the capacity to access essential medical supplies needed to respond to the ongoing upsurge of cases.
The AU strongly commended the effective genomic surveillance systems in South Africa and Botswana, which have led to early detection of the Omicron variant on the continent.
It applauded scientists and public health authorities in both member states for timely and transparent data sharing to alert the international community.
It also acknowledged that more time and investigations were needed to adequately assess the epidemiological and clinical characteristics of the Omicron variant.
Meanwhile, the AU has underscored the urgent need to strengthen public health and social measures to mitigate the risk of infections.