Omicron: SKN Won’t Place Travel Ban on African Countries- Yet

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr the Hon. Timothy Harris
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BASSETERRE – The St Kitts-Nevis government says it will not follow other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries and impose a travel ban on several African countries following the discovery of a new variant of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in South Africa over the past few days.Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris told Parliament on Wednesday that his administration would follow the advice given by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to not impose any travel restrictions on South Africa where the new variant of the COVID-19 virus, now called Omicron, was first reported.

Prime Minister Harris said that while some countries have imposed travel bans on South Africa and other southern African countries to keep the Omicron variant out, the new strain has already been confirmed in other countries.

“The WHO does not support travel bans at this particular time and it has advised that the travel bans that are in place are unlikely to stop the spread of the variant. Of course, we see that although it was reported in South Africa, it has now found itself elsewhere and it has been reported in at least 22 other countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom.”

With Omicron being designated a variant of concern, the WHO has issued a number of recommendations to the global community, which includes enhancing surveillance.

Several CARICOM countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and the Bahamas, have joined the United Kingdom, the United States and others in imposing a travel ban on passengers coming from several African countries including South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

But Prime Minister Harris told legislators, “our health team has advised that it is not necessary at this time to impose a travel ban on South Africa or on the South African countries.

“We will follow what the WHO prescribed in place of travel bans. The WHO has recommended that countries continue to implement the effective public health measures to reduce COVID-19 circulation overall, using a risk analysis and science-based approach. Further, countries should increase their public health and medical capacities to manage an increase in the cases,” Harris told Parliament.

He said local authorities would continue the necessary public health measures that have kept citizens and residents safe and will continue to promote the country’s vaccination programme.

“We want to encourage everyone who is able to, to get himself or herself vaccinated. We want to repeat our appeal to those who are on the frontline, our nurses, our doctors, our police officers, those in the Defence Force, in fact, anyone whether in public or private sector engaged in frontline activity, however defined, they are at the risk being in the frontline and therefore we advise that they protect themselves as much as possible, and the best tool in this fight against a virus that killed millions of people is the vaccine,” said Prime Minister Harris.

St Kitts-Nevis has recorded 28 deaths and 2 786 infections from COVID-19 since the first case was detected here in March last year. (CMC)

 

 

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