Nearly two years since the World Health Organization (WHO) first declared Covid a pandemic, prompting a majority of countries to seal their borders and put the breaks on air travel, the same entity now classes these measures as “ineffective” and urges national governments to lift existing travel bans.
The statement was issued following the tenth meeting of the Emergency Committee, summoned by the Director-General, where several “key issues” relating to the pandemic were discussed, including travel. Proof of vaccination for entry, as well as testing and quarantines, were among other topics discussed.
WHO Calls For Travel Bans To End Once And For All
Since early 2020, when Covid was identified, individual governments and their medical advisors have rushed to make decisions they deem necessary to protect the population from more virulent strains. The measures imposed generally range from mandatory vaccination proof for inbound travelers to PCR testing or, in extreme situations, blanket travel bans.
When Omicron emerged in South Africa and the country itself, as well as neighboring nations, faced an outright travel ban, WHO was quick to criticize the international response, calling it an “attack” on global solidarity. Now, they are again pleading with UN member states to relax travel rules.
As per new WHO guidance, countries should now “lift or ease international traffic bans” as they have proved a “failure” when it comes to limiting the spread of the virus: even though the Omicron variant was initially flagged in South Africa, it is rapidly becoming dominant worldwide and causing travel disruption in places as far as the Caribbean.
According to the world’s top health authority, travel measures including masking, testing, quarantines, and even vaccination should be based on “risk assessments” and most importantly, countries must avoid placing the “financial burden” on international travelers.
The news will surely be welcomed by the international traveler community, especially at a time when a growing number of passengers have been experiencing difficulties navigating the patchwork of measures enacted by different countries.
While Mexico has no restrictions whatsoever, European nations like Spain and France will start requiring booster shots of American travelers, which can make cross-border travel challenging and difficult to assess for some.
What Is The World Health Organization’s Stance On Mandatory Vaccination For Travel?
Surprisingly, the World Health Organization has also requested that countries do not require proof of vaccination against Covid as “the only pathway” for resumption of international travel. Among the reasons for the ruling, they have stated the “limited global access” and “inequitable distribution” of vaccines.
From now on, UN member states are advised to follow a “risk-based approach” in lifting existing measures, including testing and quarantine mandates, which have dealt a crippling blow to traveler confidence, and further hindered economic recovery in sectors heavily dependent on tourism.
For now, most travelers who test positive on a vacation are required to self isolate until they are no longer infectious, though rules tend to vary across different destinations.
When testing positive, Americans are also unable to immediately board a flight back to the United States unless they provide proof of an updated negative test result or a certificate of recovery issued by a certified health professional. It is worth noting that, for this same reason, travel insurance that covers Covid has become even more of a necessity.
Additionally, restrictions enforced throughout most of the pandemic have rendered U.S. citizens, as well as other nationals, unable to visit certain territories at all, based purely on their passport or recent travel history. Now, WHO no longer sees blanket bans as appropriate.
Besides advising against extreme measures, the organization has also called for all vaccines that have received WHO Emergency Use Listing and “all heterologous vaccine combinations as per SAGE recommendations” to be recognized for international travel.
Since vaccination began, most countries in the European Union have only permitted travel for those who have been immunized with a European Medicines Agency-approved vaccine. Despite recent assessments, individual countries still have full autonomy regarding internal measures and may, or may not accept WHO advice.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com