President of South Africa Ramaphosa calls for lifting omicron travel bans

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South Africa claimed on Sunday that it was being punished for detecting the omicron variant, as more countries responded with travel bans to the worrying new coronavirus strain.

The country’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on states to “urgently” reverse “scientifically unjustified” travel bans linked to a new COVID-19 variant dubbed omicron.

“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 remarks since announcement of discovery of omicron. “The prohibition of travel is not informed by science,” he added.

“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 noted. “These restrictions are unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country and our southern African sister countries.”

Dozens of countries rushed on Friday to impose new restrictions, banning travelers from number of African states from entering their borders, fearing that new variant will spark more outbreaks. The “variant of concern” as it was named by the World Health Organization (WHO) is reportedly more transmissible and more dangerous than other strains.

“This latest round of travel bans is akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker,” said a statement released by the Ministry of International Relations. “Excellent science should be applauded and not punished. The global community needs collaboration and partnerships in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said, noting that new variants had been identified in other countries with no link to South Africa.

South African officials have entered discussions with countries that have adopted travel restrictions, hoping they will reconsider the decisions, the statement said.

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