News– Discovery of a new coronavirus variant in South Africa, called Omicron, has led to countries once again restricting or entirely eliminating the freedom to travel.
Why these knee-jerk reactions like travel bans are not effective?
1) Virus is well on its way to becoming endemic at many places.
2) Also there appears no need to lock away one country when this virus is already on multiple continents. After the initial outbreak, travel restrictions have very little impact on virus spread.
3) Unlike 2020 we now have tests, vaccines and various tools, so we aren’t as helpless as we were then.
4) Travel restrictions bring with them hidden human and economic cost of de-connecting the world.
What are the steps that should be taken?
1) Implementing public health and social measures should be prioritized-Proven personal hygiene measures like hand washing, social distancing and mask-wearing should be religiously followed.
2) Using IT tools –Data-driven decisions, consistent set of health protocols, contact-tracing and screening measures can help governments to keep their borders open without compromising on public health.
3) Vaccines– Making COVID vaccines available to all. There exists a wide disparity between the developed and developing countries in this aspect. We should remember that no one is safe till everyone is safe.
Source– This post is based on the article “Pavlovian responses like travel restrictions won’t stop omicron” published in Live mint on 9th Dec 2021.