South Africa Govt Slams 'Unjustified' Travel Bans Over Omicron

South African President Cyril 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.

He was addressing the nation on November 28, 2021 on progress in the national effort to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. "We are deeply disappointed by the decision of several countries to prohibit travel from a number of southern African countries following the identification of the Omicron variant. This is a clear and completely unjustified departure from the commitment that many of these countries made at the meeting of G20 countries in Rome last month," he said.

After South African scientists identified a new variant of the coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 disease, the World Health Organization named it Omicron and declared it a "variant of concern". Countries that have imposed travel restrictions include the United Kingdom, United States, European Union members, Canada, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Japan, Thailand, Seychelles, Brazil and Guatemala, among others.

Ramaphosa said the emergence of the Omicron variant should be a wake-up call to the world that vaccine inequality cannot be allowed to continue. "Until everyone is vaccinated, everyone will be at risk. Until everyone is vaccinated, we should expect that more variants will emerge. These variants may well be more transmissible, may cause more severe disease, and may be more resistant to the current vaccines. Instead of prohibiting travel, the rich countries of the world need to support the efforts of developing economies to access and to manufacture enough vaccine doses for their people without delay," said President Ramaphosa.

The African Union has also cautioned countries across the world against imposing quick travel bans on travellers from the continent. Dr John Nkengasong, the Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said the history of the pandemic had indicated travel bans served little purpose in managing the spread of the virus.

InFocus

OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg (file photo).

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