The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended that travel abroad should be temporarily avoided by the age group, along with others who are at high-risk of developing severe coronavirus symptoms.
The WHO has now called on countries to take “rational” measures against the new variant, which is feared to be more transmissible than previous strains.
While caution among vulnerable groups is advised, the health body stressed that blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread of Omicron and could negatively impact global health efforts, despite calls to close borders.
In a statement, the WHO said: “Persons who are unwell or at risk of developing severe Covid-19 disease and dying, including people 60 years of age or older, or those with co-morbidities (e.g. heart disease, cancer and diabetes), should be advised to postpone travel.
“Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.
“In addition, they can adversely impact global health efforts during a pandemic by disincentivizing countries to report and share epidemiological and sequencing data.”
Countries are instead advised to follow “an evidence-informed and risk-based approach” to any travel measures introduced to tackle Omicron, including health screening and quarantine for international travellers.
What travel rules have changed?
Anyone entering the UK from any destination abroad is now required to take a PCR test within two days of arrival and self-isolate until they receive a negative result, regardless of vaccination status.
Under previous rules, fully vaccinated travellers only had to take a day 2 lateral flow test and did not have to self-isolate unless they received a positive result.
The UK’s travel red list has also been expanded to include 10 African nations.
These include Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Anyone arriving from these countries must now stay in hotel quarantine for 10 days.
What else has the WHO said?
The WHO has said it is still unclear if the Omicron variant, first detected in South Africa, is more transmissible than other variants or if it can cause more severe disease.
Preliminary data on the variant suggests that it is linked to increasing hospital admissions in South Africa, but this could be due to more people being infected, rather than a result of specific infection with Omicron.
The WHO said: “There is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants.
“Initial reported infections were among university students—younger individuals who tend to have more mild disease—but understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks.
“All variants of Covid-19, including the Delta variant that is dominant worldwide, can cause severe disease or death, in particular for the most vulnerable people, and thus prevention is always key.”
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