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The United Kingdom was just one of the many nations that moved to ban travel from Southern Africa when the Omicron variant first came to light and it took a lot of criticism for doing so. Yesterday, those travel bans were lifted, and despite being a staunch critic of the UK administration I have to admit that on this occasion, they got things right.
The standard argument against the introduction of travel bans is that travel bans don’t stop the spread of a new coronavirus variant and, factually, that’s 100% correct. Travel bans do not stop the spread of new variants and imposing a travel ban with that as the core reason would make the ban pointless.
Unfortunately for all the virtue signallers, the self-righteous, and the people with little more than blinkered self-interest at heart, the UK did not impose a travel ban on Southern Africa to stop the spread of Omicron. It imposed the ban in an attempt to slow Omicron down and to buy itself a little more time.
We all know that the type of travel ban that we saw the US impose on most of Europe becomes ridiculous and indefensible once the variant that the ban was designed to slow down becomes the dominant variant in the country imposing the travel ban, but just because some travel bans are ill-conceived doesn’t mean that all travel bans are ill-conceived.
When Omicron’s existence first came to light, we had no idea how transmissible it may be, we had no idea how effective the current vaccines would be against it, we had no idea how far it had already spread, and we had no idea how deadly it could be, and that is a lot of unknowns for a government to deal with. So, with all of that in mind, what was the UK government to do? Sit back and see what happens? Only an idiot would suggest that as a course of action.
The fact is that governments have a primary duty of taking whatever actions they think are appropriate to protect their populations from harm so, as I pointed out two weeks ago, governments that imposed bans on travel from Southern Africa had no option but to impose those bans in the face of significant unknowns. Anyone that doesn’t see that is out of touch with reality and with how the world works.
What I also said two weeks ago is that when it’s clear that Omicron is the prevalent variant in a country that’s imposing a ban based purely on trying to slow Omicron down, that country’s travel ban becomes pointless and should be withdrawn.
That’s exactly what the UK has just done.
The UK imposed a travel ban on Southern Africa in an attempt to buy itself more time to administer more vaccines and more boosters before the inevitable Omicron wave took hold. Once that wave came and it was clear that there was no slowing Omicron down, it lifted the ban almost immediately.
It’s hard to fault that course of action if you’re not a virtue-signaller or operating from a point of blinkered self-interest.
Whether or not the UK travel ban had any material effect is unclear and also irrelevant. The UK government had no option but to try to do whatever it could to try to slow the Omicron tide and that’s why it imposed the ban on travel from Southern Africa.
Now, with Omicron rampaging through the UK population as quickly as faux outrage spews out of the self-righteous, the ban has been lifted and as much as I dislike a lot of what the UK government has done during the pandemic, I can’t find fault with how it acted here. Let’s now hope that other governments follow suit.