South Africa condemns travel ban over COVID-19 variant Omicron - GulfToday

South Africa condemns travel ban over COVID-19 variant Omicron


South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the media in Pretoria, South Africa. File/AP

Gulf Today Report

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday called on countries to “immediately and urgently” reverse scientifically “unjustified” travel bans linked to the discovery of the new coronavirus variant Omicron.

Omicron has been classed as a "variant of concern". Early evidence suggests it has a higher re-infection risk. The heavily mutated variant was detected in South Africa earlier this month and then reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) last Wednesday, the report said.


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Dozens of nations from Europe to Asia have blacklisted South Africa and its neighbours since South African scientists flagged Omicron on November 25.

Meanwhile, South Africa's president has condemned travel bans enacted against his country and its neighbours over the new coronavirus variant Omicron, BBC reported.

Picture used for illustrative purposes only.

Ramaphosa said he was "deeply disappointed" by the action, which he described as unjustified, and called for the bans to be urgently lifted.

The UK, EU and US are among those who have imposed travel bans.

The flight bans have angered several African leaders.

"We call upon all those countries that have imposed travel bans on our country and our southern African sister countries to immediately and urgently reverse their decisions," Ramaphosa said in his first address to the nation following last week's detection of the new variant.

The World Health Organisation has labelled Omicron a variant of concern, while scientists are still assessing its virulence.

Travellers load luggage into a taxi outside the international terminal at Sydney Airport. Reuters

A "deeply disappointed" Ramaphosa argued that the ban was "not informed by science".

The countries that have already imposed travel restrictions on southern Africa include key travel hub Qatar, the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Netherlands.

The variant is responsible for most of the infections found in South Africa's most populated province, Gauteng, over the last two weeks, and is now present in all other provinces in the country.


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