The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said that countries must follow the World Health Organization (WHO) guidance and revoke all travel restrictions that were imposed due to the Omicron variant found in late November 2021.  

According to WHO, new travel curbs will not prevent the international spread of the COVID-19 and “place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods”. WHO advises reviewing and updating travel measures only when new evidence “becomes available on the epidemiological and clinical characteristics of Omicron". 

IATA’s director Willie Walsh said that countries have overreacted to the Omicron variant and hopes that nations will find a way to minimize the damage and get back on the right track.  

“Once a measure is put in place, it is very challenging to get governments to consider reviewing it, let alone removing it, even when there is plenty of evidence pointing in that direction,” Walsh explained.   

However, he added that the Omicron crisis would not influence IATA’s predictions for air travel to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2024.  

“With the European CDC already signaling that a de-escalation of measures will likely be needed in the coming weeks, governments must urgently put actions behind the commitments that they made at ICAO,” said Walsh. 

Due to the new COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa, countries across Asia and Europe rushed to tighten their border controls for travelers arriving from southern Africa. The new discovery came as Europe, North America, are entering the winter holiday season, a lucrative period for airlines all over the world.  

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Several countries in Asia and Europe have already tightened border controls over the new COVID-19 variant found in the South African region.