Nov. 29, 2012 (GIN) – Southern African countries are facing new travel restrictions after the discovery of a handful of coronavirus variants, first found in Botswana. For some African leaders, it’s the classic case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.
“Despite the repeated warnings of health leaders,” declared former British prime minister Gordon Brown, “our failure to put vaccines into the arms of people in the developing world is now coming back to haunt us. We were forewarned – and yet here we are.”
“We are concerned that there seem to have been attempts to stigmatize the country where it was detected,” said Botswana Health Minister Edwin Dikoloti while criticizing derogatory reports of a so-called “Botswana variant”.
South Africa will remain on the lowest ‘Level One’ of its five-level lockdown strategy to fight the Covid-19 pandemic despite the global panic around the detection of the Omicron variant in the country, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced.
Ramaphosa also called on more than 20 countries that have imposed travel bans to and from South Africa and its neighbors to immediately end the ban to avoid further harm to the economies of these countries, which have already been battered by the pandemic.
“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 added.
Matshidiso Moeti, regional director for Africa for the World Health Organization, also criticized travel curbs and called on countries to follow science and international health regulations in order to avoid such measures.
Shabir Madhi, a South African vaccinologist, told Al Jazeera it was “naive” for countries “to believe they can stop the spread of this variant with a blanket ban on countries in southern Africa”.
“The virus has already found its way into these societies from individuals that haven’t even travelled to or come into contact with anyone from southern Africa,” he said. “In South Africa, we have one of the globe’s best COVID sequencing capacities based on our experience with treating HIV and TB. We have been ahead of the game for a while now and we are thus a victim of our success.”
In the absence of mass vaccination, Covid is not only spreading uninhibited among unprotected people but is mutating, with new variants now threatening to unleash themselves on even fully vaccinated people in the richest countries of the world.
As the new variant was spotted Saturday in Britain, Germany and Italy, one country after another shut their doors to southern Africa.
Countries slapped with new travel restrictions by the UK include South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Angola.