Covid travel restrictions are easy to impose – but what we really need right now is clarity

Editorial: Western countries’ reaction to the omicron variant has been to protect their citizens first. But for the world to curb this scourge, there has to be a global response

Sunday 05 December 2021 21:30

Once again the government faces the charge that it has acted too late in introducing restrictions to try to curb the spread of Covid-19, in this case in response to the spread of the omicron variant. The stable door, it is alleged, is being shut after the horse has bolted. No 10 has also been attacked for overreacting to the new variant, predictably by the travel industry, but less predictably by the World Health Organisation. The WHO made the general point that blanket bans would not prevent the spread of omicron, saying they were an attack on global solidarity.

Global solidarity may sound like a vague concept, but it certainly matters. For understandable reasons, western governments have sought to protect their own citizens first. That is their immediate responsibility. But for the world to curb this scourge, there has to be a global response. No one is safe until everyone is safe. Meanwhile, it seems unfair that countries that are adept at identifying new strains – in the case of omicron, South Africa – should be punished for their technical competence and the openness of their response.

As far as the UK is concerned, the government has defended its new travel restrictions as proportionate. From Tuesday, anyone arriving in the UK will have to take a Covid test before their departure and another within two days of landing, whether they have been fully vaccinated or not. In addition, Nigeria has been added to the red list of countries, from which people arriving in the UK are required to spend 10 days in hotel quarantine at their own expense.

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