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Economy
Jan 25, 2022

‘Blanket travel restrictions don’t work’

Foreign Affairs News Desk
Empty passenger service counter at airport. Wikimedia Commons
Empty passenger service counter at airport. Wikimedia Commons

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has welcomed the call of its sister UN agency World Health Organization (WHO) for restrictions on travel to be lifted or eased.

Citing the varied global responses to the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, WHO has reiterated that restrictions on travel are not effective in suppressing the international spread.

In line with UNWTO’s recurring warning against the use of blanket restrictions, the 10th meeting of the WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee (Geneva, 19 January) expressed concern that such measures can cause economic and social harm. They may also “discourage transparent and rapid reporting of emerging Variants of Concern”, the WHO added.  

The Committee also noted that measures applied to international travellers such as testing, isolation and quarantine, and vaccinations, should be based on “risk assessments and avoid placing the financial burden on international travellers in accordance with Article 40 of the IHR”.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili says: “When it comes to stopping the spread of new virus variants, blanket travel restrictions are simply counterproductive. In fact, by cutting the lifeline of tourism, these restrictions do more harm than good, especially in destinations reliant on international tourists for jobs, economic wellbeing and sustainable change.”

“UNWTO welcomes WHO’s new guidance, highlighting the ineffectiveness of blanket travel restrictions, and we also amplify their recommendations against using vaccination status as the sole condition for welcoming tourists back, especially when vaccination rates remain so uneven.”

UK opens for travel

In another development news, the United Kingdom has removed all COVID-19 testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers, arriving in the UK from next month.

A travel advisory issued by the Department of Transport and the Department of Health and Social Care announced that beginning from 4 AM on February 11 all testing requirements will be removed for eligible fully vaccinated arrivals, with only a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) now required.

Arrivals who are not recognised as fully vaccinated will only need to take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on or before Day Two after they arrive in the UK, according to the changes announced recently.

They will not need to self-isolate on arrival, and will only need to do so on receipt of a positive result. Also, children aged between 12 and 15 years in England will be able to prove their vaccination status or proof of prior infection via a digital NHS COVID Pass from February 3 for outbound travel.