Cape Town — President Cyril Ramaphosa has criticised travel bans imposed on parts of Africa by western countries because of the outbreak of Omicron, a variant of Covid-19.
Ramaphosa, who was speaking at the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security, said the travel bans signaled western hypocrisy.
According to News24, the president said that "another disappointment thrown our way, when South African scientists discovered omicron, the new variant, they immediately took on the responsibility of informing the entire world that a new variant has been found. And what was the response? The northern countries decided to punish the excellence from Africa. They basically said we will not allow you to travel. Lo and behold! Omicron is spreading all over the world," he added.
"They have always said to us 'base your decisions on science' but when the moment comes for them to be more scientific they are not. They resort to their own self-interests," Ramaphosa said, calling for travel bans to be lifted immediately.
TimesLive reports that Ramaphosa said: "They ordered more vaccines than their populations required and when we wanted vaccines, they kept giving us the crumbs from their table. The greed they demonstrated is quite disappointing, particularly when they say they are our partners because our lives in Africa are just as important as their lives in Europe, North America and all over."
In June 2021, Ramaphosa called on all G7 members to support the waiver of intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines, and engage in negotiations that will result in a balanced outcome to rapidly expand production in Africa and across the world. He has said that South Africa is ready to continue the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and will not back down in the face of health apartheid.
However, European Council president Charles Michel has denied the existence of vaccine apartheid. He said the EU had been looking at ways to assist Africa with vaccine rollouts and sharing. News@$ reports that Michel said the references to a "vaccine apartheid" were "dramatic statements". Michel called on African leaders to assist in the formulation of a treaty to prevent further discrimination.
Omicron was first detected in Botswana, but the new variant is believed to have been spreading in Europe undetected much earlier. Most countries barred entry to travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi. Ramaphosa has called on countries that have imposed travel bans on southern African countries to urgently reverse their decisions. "There is no scientific justification for keeping these restrictions in place," the president said.
Ramaphosa is visiting four West African states – Nigeria, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, and Senegal – as part of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) tour.