Geneva — The UN health agency has urged all countries to adopt a scientific; risk-based approach for implementing travel bans linked to the new COVID-19 variant identified in South Africa and Botswana.
The announcement came on Friday as a World Health Organization (WHO) panel met to assess the potential impact of a new coronavirus variant identified as B 1.1.529.
According to WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove; researchers are currently trying to determine where the mutations are and what they potentially mean for diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.
“There’s a lot of work underway, and it will take a few weeks for us to understand what impact this variant has. It’s a variant that’s under monitoring. The technical advisory group at WHO will discuss if it will become a variant of interest or a variant of concern, and in that case; we will give it a Greek name, but it is something to watch”, she added.
The expert thanked researchers from South Africa and Botswana for openly sharing information with the UN health agency.
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The UN body advised not to discriminate against countries that share their findings openly; as Britain, France, and Israel move to cancel direct flights from South Africa and other surrounding nations.
South African health authorities state so far, fewer than 100 cases of the new variant have been confirmed; mostly among young people who have the lowest vaccination rate in the country.
“Countries can do a lot already in terms of surveillance and sequencing and work together …. at this point implementing travel measures is being cautioned against“, WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told journalists in Geneva.
The WHO officials reminded previous advice: “Get vaccinated when you can, make sure you receive the full course of your doses and make sure to reduce your exposure and prevent yourself from passing that virus to someone else.”