European Union to lift travel ban on Southern African countries

The lifting of the ban comes days after South Africa passes peak of its fourth wave.

The European Union (EU) member states have agreed to lift the travel bans imposed on several Southern African countries, weeks after imposing these following the reporting of the first case of the Omicron variant by South Africa on the 24th of November. Announced earlier today in a tweet by France, which holds the EU presidency at present, travellers from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe will be allowed to fly into the bloc, after completing some health assessments. The news also come a month after the European Commission asked its member states to promptly re-consider the travel bans and to rather opt for pre-departure PCR testing instead prior to entry into the bloc. Since then, some of them have since eased their restrictions.

Since Omicron was discovered, the variant has led to a surge in cases globally causing what Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s Director General had described as a 'tsunami of cases' that has been overwhelming health systems the world over. The Omicron-inspired surge has led to record-level number of cases, with cases reported during the week ending 2 January the highest since the start of the pandemic, according to the WHO. While studies have shown it is not as severe as Delta, and that there was a reduced risk of hospitalization from the variant in comparison to its predecessor, Tedros has warned against complacency. Leading scientists have encouraged for vaccinations to still be prioritised as a key source of defence, as more is learned about the variant..