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OMICRON: WHO urges those over 60 to cancel travel plans as SA tightens restrictions

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised those aged over 60 to postpone their travel plans to risky areas, as states continue to react against the Omicron strain.

The UN health authority said it expected the Omicron variant to be detected across the globe by now, adding that vulnerable groups should avoid areas with community transmission.

“Persons who are unwell, or who have not been fully vaccinated or do not have proof of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection and are at increased risk of developing severe disease and dying, including people 60 years of age or older… should be advised to postpone travel to areas with community transmission,” the WHO said in a statement.

The organisation warned countries against “blanket travel bans”, which is said will not prevent the international spread of the disease, but will “place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods”.

“In addition, they can adversely impact global health efforts during a pandemic by disincentivizing countries to report and share epidemiological and sequencing data,” the WHO said.

“All countries should ensure that the measures are regularly reviewed and updated when new evidence becomes available on the epidemiological and clinical characteristics of Omicron or any other VOC.”

Australia has closed its international border to eight Southern African nations, requiring Australians returning from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, The Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique to quarantine for two weeks.

The Australian Capital Territory, NSW and Victoria will continue to require 72 hours of home isolation for all international arrivals.

In South Australia, where new case numbers have climbed to 20 over the past two days, visitors from NSW will need to be tested on arrival as of yesterday, according to the state’s police force.

It is not yet known if any of SA’s cases are of the Omicron variant.

NSW has just recorded its ninth case of the new variant, and health authorities have expressed concerns that it was acquired via community transmission, according to ABC News.

Sydney epidemiologist professor Alexandra Martiniuk told the Sydney Morning Herald now Omicron has been detected in other parts of the world, the federal governments new restrictions may have very little effect.

“Initially it made sense because it appeared like it was a ‘southern African’ variant and that would be where we would see the majority of cases, but then data came to light that it was in more than 20 countries,” she said.

“At this point, it is possible to have people coming in from any part of the world with Omicron.”

Underlining Martiniuk’s point is NSW Health’s fears that a child who was diagnosed with the variant likely acquired COVID-19 while onboard a Qatar Airways flight from Doha last week as they had not spent time in southern Africa.

Another positive case that proved to be of the Omicron variant who had been in southern Africa, may have been infectious while on board a Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore which arrived in Sydney on Sunday 28 November.

NSW Health is requesting every person who was on flight SQ231 from Singapore to Sydney on 28 November to immediately get their first COVID-19 PCR test if not already completed and isolate until they receive a negative result.


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