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WHO advises unvaccinated people aged 60 and older to postpone travel

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The World Health Organization said Tuesday that people 60 and older who are not vaccinated or have not previously had COVID-19 should postpone traveling "to areas with community transmission," citing the spread of the Omicron variant. The organization, which named Omicron as a variant of concern days earlier, issued a press release criticizing widespread travel bans and arguing that essential travel should continue so long as travelers remain vigilant.

WHO named Omicron a variant of concern on Friday, and 56 countries issued travel restrictions in the following days, according to the organization. The U.S. banned travel from South Africa and seven other southern African countries starting Monday. 

Although the health organization has criticized such "blanket bans" from countries, it said on Tuesday that "persons who have not been fully vaccinated or do not have proof of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection and are at increased risk of developing severe disease and dying, including people 60 years of age or older or those with comorbidities that present increased risk of severe COVID-19 (e.g. heart disease, cancer and diabetes), should be advised to postpone travel to areas with community transmission."

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According to the WHO, essential international travelers should be prioritized during the pandemic, while other travelers should aim "to remain vigilant for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, to get vaccinated when it is their turn and to adhere to public health and social measures at all times and regardless of vaccination status."

The WHO recommended that each nation assess its own risk and implement measures like screening passengers for COVID-19 and enforcing a quarantine for international travelers if the need arises.

"All measures should be commensurate with the risk, time-limited and applied with respect to travellers' dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms," the organization said.

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