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Calls for lifting of travel bans on African destinations


South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has called the travel bans against SA and other African countries ’unjustified’.

File picture: Pexels

THE NEW Covid-19 variant Omicron detected in some countries has caused chaos overnight. Several countries have imposed strict travel bans on South Africa and other African destinations ahead of the peak summer season.

The travel industry wants the bans lifted immediately, even though some have called them temporary.

In his address to the nation on Sunday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa called the travel bans against SA and other African countries “unjustified”.

He said countries like the UK, US, EU members, Canada, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Japan, Thailand and more, imposed travel restrictions on South Africa and some of its southern African sister countries.

“These restrictions are unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country and our southern African sister countries. The prohibition of travel is not informed by science, nor will it be effective in preventing the spread of this variant.

“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.

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“We call upon all those countries that have imposed travel bans on our country and our Southern African sister countries to urgently reverse their decisions and lift the ban they have imposed before any further damage is done to our economies and to the livelihoods of our people.

“There is no scientific justification for keeping these restrictions in place,” he said.

WHO African Region posted on Twitter that it stood with African nations’ calls for borders to remain open. “As countries impose flight bans on southern African nations due to concerns over the new #OmicronVariant, WHO urges countries to follow science and health regulations,” the tweet said.

WHO states that any restrictions implemented should not be unnecessarily intrusive or invasive, and they should be scientifically based, in accordance with the International Health Regulations.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, commended the speed and transparency of the South African and Botswana governments in informing the world of the new variant.

“WHO stands with African countries which had the courage to boldly share life-saving public health information, helping protect the world against the spread of Covid-19.

“I urge all countries to respect their legal obligations and implement scientifically based public health actions. It is critical that countries which are open with their data are supported as this is the only way to ensure we receive important data in a timely manner,” Dr Moeti said.

With the Omicron variant now detected in several regions of the world, putting in place travel bans that target Africa attacks global solidarity, Dr Moeti noted.

“Covid-19 constantly exploits our divisions. We will only get the better of the virus if we work together for solutions.”

International Air Transport Association (IATA) had also been vocal about the bans and called for borders to remain open.

Willie Walsh, director-general of IATA, said: “Governments are responding to the risks of the new coronavirus variant in emergency mode, causing fear among the travelling public.

“As quickly as possible, we must use the experience of the last two years to move to a co-ordinated data-driven approach that finds safe alternatives to border closures and quarantine. Travel restrictions are not a long-term solution to control Covid variants.”

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