The World Health Organization announced on Tuesday that those 60 and older should postpone travel in response to the emergence of the COVID-19 omicron variant (B.1.1.529), which they designated a ''variant of concern'' on Nov. 26.
''Persons who are unwell or at risk of developing severe COVID-19 disease and dying, including people 60 years of age or older or those with comorbidities (e.g., heart disease, cancer, and diabetes), should be advised to postpone travel,'' the statement read.
The WHO also urged countries to ''continue to apply an evidence-informed and risk-based approach when implementing travel measures,'' but cautioned against ''blanket travel bans,'' which it said ''will not prevent the international spread.''
''Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods. In addition, they can adversely impact global health efforts during a pandemic by disincentivizing countries to report and share epidemiological and sequencing data,'' The WHO said.
The United States restricted air travel on Monday from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi to combat the spread of the omicron variant, according to NPR.
The European Union, Canada, the United Kingdom and Israel have also announced travel restrictions from southern African countries.
On Tuesday, Stephane Bancel, Moderna's chief executive, said that he believes existing COVID-19 vaccines will offer less protection against the omicron variant than previous iterations of the virus.
''I think it's going to be a material drop,'' he told the Financial Times in an interview. ''I just don't know how much because we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists I've talked to ... are like, 'This is not going to be good.'''
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency on Friday, despite no confirmed omicron variant cases in the United States, New York magazine reported.
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