Japan suspended on Wednesday for at least a month the new incoming flight reservations to the country, ignoring the WHO recommendation not to prohibit travel due to the emergency of the new omicron variant that has already arrived in Latin America.
The appearance of this new variant, apparently more contagious and with multiple mutations, has generated a panic reaction in many governments, which has resulted in new restrictions and travel limitations.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that “general travel bans will not prevent international spread“From omicron and its director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus asked”Calm down“And an answer”rational”.
Even so, hours later, the Japanese government suspended new reservations for inbound flights to the country due to fears caused by this new variant.
“We have asked airlines to stop accepting reservations for new inbound flights for one month starting December 1”, A person in charge of the Ministry of Transport told AFP.
The announcement came shortly after the detection of a second omicron case in the Asian archipelago.
According to the government, it is a man in his 20s who arrived on November 27 on a plane to Tokyo from Peru, a country that has not officially detected any case of this new variant.
Cases in Brazil
In fact, for now, the only Latin American country where the omicron variant has been detected was Brazil, which on Tuesday announced two cases in passengers from South Africa, before that country announced the discovery of the variant.
The infected are “a 41-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman from South Africa“, Which” landed in Brazil on 23 (November), “said the Secretary of Health of the state of Sao Paulo.
Both reportedly had mild symptoms at the time of the PCR test and since then they have been in home isolation and under monitoring, as have their relatives.
Other countries in the region are on alert. Ecuador, for example, postponed the reopening of its land border with Colombia scheduled for Wednesday until December 15.
And the Argentine Ministry of Health announced that, in prevention of the omicron variant, the isolation at sea of a ship coming from Cape Verde after a contagion had been detected.
The ship “Hamburg”Had arrived in Buenos Aires on Friday with 170 passengers and 156 crew members, but is now on the high seas some 280 km south of the capital.
Negotiations at WHO
Since South Africa signaled the emergence of this variant last week, many countries closed their borders to people from southern Africa, sparking outrage in the region.
These measures “can negatively impact global health efforts during a pandemic by discouraging countries from reporting and sharing epidemiological and sequencing data“Warned the WHO.
This lack of effectiveness of the restrictions was in evidence when the Netherlands reported that the omicron variant was present in its territory before South Africa reported its first case, on November 25.
And its expansion continues. On Wednesday, Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, and Saudi Arabia announced their first cases of the new mutation.
Concern has grown even more since the president of the American laboratory Moderna, Stephan Bancel, said that a “significant decrease”Of the efficacy of current vaccines against omicron.
One possible solution would be the US laboratory Merck’s anti-COVID pill, which was recommended by a Washington-appointed panel of health experts for high-risk adult patients after a tight vote.
The WHO considers “elevated” the “probability of omicron expanding globally”, Although until now there are numerous unknowns about its contagiousness, its resistance to vaccines or its severity.
A reassuring element is that, for the moment, no deaths associated with the new variant have been detected.
So far, the pandemic has caused more than 5.2 million deaths since the coronavirus was detected in late 2019 in China, according to an AFP tally.
With this pandemic still far from being controlled, the 194 members of the WHO began negotiations in Geneva on Wednesday for an agreement to improve prevention and combat in future pandemics.
The decision, adopted unanimously, “represents a common commitment to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, taking into account the lessons we learned”Declared the Australian ambassador to the UN, Sally Mansfield, when presenting the text.
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