Nov 30, 2021 - World

WHO advises people 60 or older to postpone travel due to Omicron

Travelers arrive for flights at Newark Liberty International Airport on November 30, 2021
Travelers arrive for flights at Newark Liberty International Airport on Nov. 30. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Tuesday advised those 60 or older and other vulnerable people to postpone travel plans in response to the emergence of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Driving the news: The WHO said on Monday that the Omicron variant poses a "very high" risk and may be more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

  • Though the WHO acknowledged there are still many uncertainties associated with the variant, the agency said it believes the likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron around the world is "high."

What they're saying: People "who are unwell or at risk of developing severe COVID-19 disease and dying" should delay their travel plans, the WHO said.

  • People 60 or older or those with comorbidities such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes are considered at risk.
  • The WHO also urged countries to "continue to apply an evidence-informed and risk-based approach when implementing travel measures," but urged against "blanket travel bans," which it said "will not prevent the international spread."

The big picture: The WHO's guidance comes as countries worldwide rush to implement measures to respond to the Omicron variant, including travel restrictions.

  • The U.S. has restricted air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi due to concerns over the variant.
  • Similar restrictions have been announced by countries in Europe and Asia.

The bottom line: The WHO urged all travelers to "to remain vigilant for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, to get vaccinated when it is their turn and to adhere to public health and social measures at all times and regardless of vaccination status, including by using masks appropriately, respecting physical distancing."

Go deeper: Omicron dashboard

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