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Why just Africa? Health experts question Canada’s separation from the continent with COVID travel rules – National

Like what’s newly discovered Omicron COVID-19 variants begin to invade cities around the world, Canada’s Extended Travel Restrictions has focused on countries in one continent: Africa.

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But according to health experts, the option of eliminating African countries makes no sense – and could actually jeopardize the global fight against COVID-19.

“For work travel restrictions, they have to be proportionate, they have to be fair, and there has to be a good reason for it… which is really,” said Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University. not appropriate at all,” said Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University. of Toronto, told Global News from Al Ghaydah, Yemen.

“This doesn’t build trust and it really sets low-income countries apart from high-income countries.”

Read more:

Omicron variant: Canada extends travel ban, seeks enhanced guidance

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Canada introduced the latest round of travel restrictions on November 26 in response to worries about the newly discovered variant of Omicron. The government has banned visitors from seven African countries: South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.

A few days later, as cases were detected in Canada, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Hong Kong, among others, Canada expanded its travel restrictions to include three more countries. : Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt.

Foreign nationals who have been to those countries in the past two weeks will not be able to enter Canada. According to Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, Canadians and permanent residents who have transited through these countries in the past two weeks will have to quarantine, be tested at the airport and wait for test results before leaving.


Click to play video:'Canada announces new travel measures to combat spread of Omicron COVID-19 virus variant'







Canada announces new travel measures to combat spread of Omicron virus variant COVID-19


Canada announces new travel measures to combat spread of Omicron virus variant COVID-19

The federal government stood by its decision on Tuesday. Dr Theresa Tam, Canada’s top doctor, said the decision to restrict travel to 10 African countries was based on a number of “criteria”.

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“There may be some uncertainty in the overall epidemiological situation of countries and their ability to detect and respond (to variation),” Tam said.

“These countries also have very low vaccine coverage.”

She added that COVID-19 positive rates for passengers arriving from Egypt and Nigeria have increased, and that all Canadian cases reported so far “have come from Nigeria”.

Duclos echoed Tam’s comments, saying that community transmission in 10 countries “is a concern, not only for Canada but also for our international partners.”

But experts don’t buy it.

Dr Gerald Evans, an infectious disease expert at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont said: “It wouldn’t make scientific sense to be confined to Africa… because of Omicron.

“But then on the other hand… governments want to be seen doing something when this happens.”

The WHO has warned the global risk from Omicron is “very high”, with early evidence suggesting it may be more contagious than other variants of concern. According to Tam, this variant has several mutations in two key regions of the virus’ mutant protein, including those that could increase transmissibility and those that could affect immunity. vaccine-provided disease.

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Bowman cautioned, however, that “shutting down” South Africa with restrictions – rather than praising them as “very, very destructive” after they carried out the “complicated” sequencing work that led to the identification. variation is determined.

“This can really be a big disincentive,” Bowman said.

“I think a lot of it is political, for the public. In addition, lower-income countries are of less concern than higher-income countries, from an economic point of view. So I hypothesized that as well.”


Click to play video:'COVID-19: Omicron cases detected in Netherlands before variant was identified in South Africa'







COVID-19: Omicron cases detected in the Netherlands before the variant was identified in South Africa


COVID-19: Omicron cases detected in the Netherlands before the variant was identified in South Africa

Bowman is not alone in his hypothesis.

“It’s important to remember that governments make decisions because they have to engage voters,” Evans said.

“While some voters may be very much motivated by a global perspective on things, sometimes people only worry about themselves.”

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Experts fear the decision to hit these 10 travel-restricted African countries could also affect the deployment of much-needed vaccines in regions. The WHO also expressed similar concerns at Wednesday’s briefing, reiterating that the organization does not support travel bans at this time.

“All the economies of these countries depend…on the fair level of international trade. Evans says a lot of fruit and veg from South Africa to Canada.

“If we are nominally slowing travel from those jurisdictions to Canada to keep people who might be infected, we can have an impact on those specific things. And the problem you have is that those economies suffer. ”

This economic impact could affect vaccine deployment, Evans warned.

“The ability to have a vaccine deployed…will be affected by all sorts of unintended consequences of the travel ban.”

Global vaccine deployment is key: experts

Ensuring a smooth global vaccine rollout is the only way the world can truly get through the COVID-19 pandemic — and that’s a far more important issue, Evans and Bowman say. implementation of travel restrictions and enhanced dose delivery.

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“When we have areas of the world where vaccination rates are low, that’s where the virus is going to keep spreading, infecting it,” Evans said.

“The real way to tackle this… is that we need to roll out the vaccine globally, and we need to vaccinate globally to the levels we’re seeing in the developed world.”

Read more:

US reports first case of Omicron variant as officials check travel rules

That’s because the virus “takes advantage of widespread infection, causing the virus to multiply, allowing it to mutate,” according to Evans.

Those mutations can sometimes benefit the virus, by making it more contagious or teaching it to evade vaccines, according to many public health experts. The more COVID-19 spreads, the more replication – and the greater the chance for a serious mutation to persist.

According to Bowman, until areas of the world have less access to a vaccine that can immunize their populations, variations will continue to evolve.

These environments become absolute variation factories, and we’ve done very little about it, says Bowman.


Click to play video:'COVID-19: South Africa calls for calm before international response to Omicron variant'







COVID-19: South Africa calls for calm before international response to variant Omicron


COVID-19: South Africa calls for calm before international response to variant Omicron

Bowman, who works in Yemen, says he has seen first-hand the impact of vaccine inequality.

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“I have seen health care workers who are not vaccinated. I’ve seen people who need oxygen but can’t get it, in very poor countries, and they don’t get vaccinated. These people will die,” he said.

“The mortality rate due to this will be phenomenal.”

To date, there have been more than 263 million cases worldwide. According to WHO, a total of more than 5 million people have died.

The government has already sent doses to lower-income countries around the world through the COVAX vaccine-sharing initiative – which was reiterated by the Health Secretary on Wednesday – but Bowman said these steps did not go far enough.

“South Africa itself may now have a lot of vaccines, but sub-Saharan Africa does not. And Canada has been relentlessly focused on boosters and kids vaccinations,” Bowman said.

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“The biggest threat to all of us and to Canadians has always been the international pandemic situation, and we’ve done nothing to address that.”

When the dust settles, Bowman added, history will be the final judge.

“When this terrible pandemic is over and the books are written and the real analysis begins,” he said, “Canada has to live with the legacy of which we have done very, very little from a point of view. global point at the height of this crisis.”


© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

https://globalnews.ca/news/8416750/omicron-variant-travel-ban-restrictions-canada-africa/ Why just Africa? Health experts question Canada’s separation from the continent with COVID travel rules – National

Aila Slisco

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