Sat. May 28th, 2022

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is urging countries to “immediately and urgently” reverse travel bans following the discovery of the new Omicron coronavirus variant.

Dozens of nations have blacklisted South Africa and its neighbors in the wake of South African scientists marking the Omicron tribe on 25 November.

The flight bans have angered several African leaders, and Mr Ramaphosa claims the measures are scientifically “unfounded”.

“We urge all those countries that have imposed travel bans on our country and our South African sister countries to immediately and urgently reverse their decisions before further damage is done to our economies and our people’s livelihoods,” Ramaphosa said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled Omicron as a variant of concern. Researchers are still assessing its virulence.

Countries that have already imposed travel restrictions on southern Africa include important travel hubs such as Qatar, the United States, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Netherlands.

Malawi president criticizes ‘afrophobia’

Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera accused Western countries of “afrophobia” for closing their borders.

In Botswana, the second South African country to discover the tribe – among a group of foreign diplomatic visitors initially – two ministers warned against “geopolitising this virus”.

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New COVID-19 variant emerges in South Africa

“We are concerned that there appear to have been attempts to stigmatize the country in which it was discovered,” said Health Minister Edwin Dikoloti.

The head of the WHO in Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, was equally concerned.

Ramaphosa warned that travel bans would “further hurt economies and undermine their ability to respond to and recover from the pandemic”.

South Africa, the continent’s most industrialized country, is struggling with slow economic growth and unemployment of more than 34 percent.

The travel edges are another big blow for its main tourism industry, which had set high hopes for the coming summer in the southern hemisphere.

South Africa has been the African country hardest hit by COVID-19, with around 2.9 million cases and 89,797 deaths reported to date.

Omicron is thought to be the driving force behind an increase in infections, with 1,600 new cases recorded on average within the last seven days compared to 500 the previous week.

AFP

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What COVID-19 travel insurance does not cover you for(Emilia Terzon)

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