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ICS, ITF warn Omicron puts supply chain at risk

ICS, ITF warn Omicron puts supply chain at risk
Yashika F. Torib December 22, 2021

International transport organizations and unions representing road, air, and sea transport warned that world leaders' 'knee-jerk' reactions to the Omicron variant put transport workers and the global supply chain at greater risk of collapse.

One week since the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the new Omicron strain of Covid-19 as a "variant of concern", at least 56 countries have reimposed varying degrees of travel restrictions.

IATA, the International Air Transport Association, ICS, the International Chamber of Shipping, IRU, the International Road Transport Union, and ITF, the International Transport Workers' Federation, have jointly called for governments to not reimpose border restrictions that further limit the freedom of movement of international transport workers and learn from the lessons of the last two years.

"There is a real and legitimate fear that unless coordinated action is taken by world leaders we will see a return to the peak of the crew change crisis in 2020 where more than 400,000 seafarers were impacted by unnecessarily harsh travel restrictions. Our transport workers have worked tirelessly for the past two years throughout the pandemic to keep the global supply chain moving, and they are at breaking point.

December is traditionally a busy time for seafarers returning home to their families and governments owe them the chance to spend that time with their loved ones," says Guy Platten, Secretary-General of International Chamber of Shipping (ICS). The said organizations emphasize that cross-border transport workers including seafarers, aircrew, and drivers must be able to continue to do their jobs, and cross borders without overly restrictive travel rules, to keep already ailing supply chains moving.

"The same governments that have blocked global vaccine access are now the first to lock down their borders to keep the Omicron variant out. Instead of pursuing a global solution to this pandemic, their decisions further risk supply chain collapse. It's not only morally reprehensible but also economic self-destruction. We need universal access to vaccines now. It's imperative for all of us to tell governments to stop bowing down to big pharma and pave the way so that every country can produce the vaccines needed to end this pandemic," says Stephen Cotton, Secretary-General of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF). The transport bodies, which represent more than $20 trillion of world trade annually and 65 million global transport workers across the supply chain, call for an end to the rushed and fragmented approach to travel rules by governments.

They also expressed frustration that governments were reneging on commitments to guarantee the free, safe, and fast movement of transport workers.