Amid Omicron variant, South African president blasts the US and other nations for travel bans

A petrol attendant stands next to a newspaper headline in Pretoria, South Africa, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. As the world grapples with the emergence of the new variant of COVID-19, scientists in South Africa — where omicron was first identified — are scrambling to combat its spread across the country. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

President Cyril Ramaphosa called on countries that have enacted travel bans to “urgently reverse their decisions.”

Cyril Ramaphosa, the president of South Africa, has called the travel bans imposed on his country “scientifically unjustified.”

He made the comments on Sunday in an address to the nation, his first since the Omicron variant was detected in the country.

“The only thing the prohibition on travel will do,” said South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa (above), “is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic.” (Photo: Filip Singer/Getty Images)
“The only thing the prohibition on travel will do,” said South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa (above), “is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic.” (Photo: Filip Singer/Getty Images)

The United States has banned travel from eight African countries — and Australia, Thailand and Sri Lanka have also banned travel from South Africa and its neighboring nations due to the Omicron variant. Britain, Canada and the European Union have also instituted travel bans on Southern Africa. However, while the variant has also been detected in Australia, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands, no travel bans have been enacted for those countries.

Ramaphosa called on countries that have enacted travel bans to “urgently reverse their decisions … before any further damage is done to our economies,” per Mediaite.

“The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic,” he said.

Matshidiso Moeti, an official from the World Health Organization, has also criticized the travel bans, which, so far, only target Africa, saying: “With the Omicron variant now detected in several regions of the world, putting in place travel bans that target Africa attacks global solidarity.”

“COVID-19 constantly exploits our divisions,” Moeti added. “We will only get the better of the virus if we work together for solutions.”

Moeti says while travel restrictions do slightly reduce the spread of the virus, the restrictions should not “be unnecessarily invasive or intrusive, and should be scientifically based, according to the International Health Regulations, which is a legally binding instrument of international law recognized by over 190 nations.”

There is uncertainty about the effect of the Omicron variant. Early scientific study has shown it may be easily transmissible; however, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has told President Joe Biden it will take at least two more weeks to understand Omicron’s transmissibility and severity. Still, “he continues to believe that existing vaccines are likely to provide a degree of protection against severe cases of Covid,” the White House told The New York Times.

Source: The New York Times.



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