South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the media in Pretoria, South Africa. File/AP
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.
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.
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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.
A "deeply disappointed" Ramaphosa argued that the ban was "not informed by science".
Travellers load luggage into a taxi outside the international terminal at Sydney Airport. Reuters
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.
The countries imposed with total travel ban include Botswana, Brazil, Colombia, Comoros, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Peru, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia.
“We had a look at this particular mutation, as opposed to many other thousands very carefully, saw there may be an issue, not so much that the vaccine won’t work, in fact scientists think it will work, but just the fact it is more spreadable,” Grant Shapps told the BBC.
Across the 16-nation southern African region, 45 million people are "gravely food insecure," the World Food Programme (WFP) said on January 16.
People who come in close contact with an infectious person, including health workers, family members and sexual partners, are at greater risk of infection.
With the monitoring of the first case of monkeypox in the country, the official stressed that all health authorities in the country are currently studying and evaluating the situation.
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