WHO urges ‘rational’ measures against Omicron COVID risk

GENEVA (CNA) – The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) voiced concern on Tuesday that some states are introducing blanket measures aimed at the Omicron coronavirus variant that he said were “not evidence-based or effective on their own” and were penalising southern African countries that reported the strain.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a speech to the WHO’s 194 member states, urged them to take “rational, proportional risk-reduction measures” in keeping with the agency’s 2005 International Health Regulations.

“We still have more questions than answers about the effect of Omicron on transmission, severity of disease, and the effectiveness of tests, therapeutics and vaccines,” said Tedros. First reported to the WHO in southern Africa less than a week ago, the new strain has rapidly spread across continents, with dozens of countries announcing travel restrictions.

The United Nations (UN) health agency has cautioned against such restrictions, fearing that blocking travel from countries where new variants are first spotted could be unfair and dissuade surveillance.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. PHOTO: AP