Soon after the World Health Organization (WHO) classified B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern and named it Omicron, countries across the world started imposing travel bans and closing their borders for nations such as South Africa, Malawi, and Botswana where positive cases of this new variant have been reported.
The United States was quick to join the countries closing their borders. President Biden on November 25 issued “A Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease 2019” to announce suspension and limitation on entry into the U.S.
The Presidential Proclamation revoked previous travel bans and entry restrictions from 33 specific countries after replacing them with a compulsory requirement (with some limited exceptions) that noncitizens who are nonimmigrant should be fully vaccinated before they enter the U.S.
According to the White House, this proclamation is effective at 12:01 am EST on November 29, 2021. It does not apply to persons aboard a U.S.-bound flight that departed before 12:01 am EST on November 29, 2021.
The proclamation declared that “The entry into the U.S. as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of noncitizens who were physically present within the Republic of Botswana, the Kingdom of Eswatini, the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Republic of Malawi, the Republic of Mozambique, the Republic of Namibia, the Republic of South Africa, and the Republic of Zimbabwe during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States is hereby suspended …”
However, vaccinology experts and medical professionals believe that imposing travel restrictions on countries where cases of Omicron have been detected is not the viable solution to contain the spread. Domestic or international travel restrictions cause more problems than the good they do.
According to experts, the Omicron variant could be a result of the low vaccination rate in Africa. They also claim that the current coronavirus vaccines are ineffective against the new variant. They however believe that the virus will not completely evade vaccines.
As an ultimate solution to contain the spread of the Omicron variant, experts suggest making the third dose a priority for frontline healthcare workers, and prioritizing vaccines for children.
Additionally, they suggest five steps countries should avoid and then they should take to restrict the spread of the new variant. The things countries should avoid include travel bans; unenforceable regulations; delay in vaccination/booster; encouraging the concept of herd immunity.
The things countries should do include getting healthcare facilities ready; learning to live with the virus; following science, learning from the past; providing vaccines to all; reaching out to unvaccinated people; and giving booster doses to high-risk people.
So, while following the WHO guidelines (travel restrictions are not among them) the U.S. should play an active role in making vaccines available to all, especially the people in developing countries of the world. That’s the logical way to combat the virus, not imposing travel ban entry restrictions on immigrants, which is considered a naive solution by experts.