Prof appeals to world to support, not isolate SA for raising alarm on new Covid variant

Prof Tulio de Oliveira. File photo.
Prof Tulio de Oliveira. File photo.
Image: Sunday Times

University of KwaZulu-Natal geneticist professor Tulio de Oliveira has appealed, in a series of tweets, to the world not to isolate SA and the continent for raising the alarm about a worrying new Covid-19 variant.

De Oliveira, director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (Krisp), also appealed to global financial organisations and billionaires, including Elon Musk, to “support the poor population and governments in SA and Africa to control and extinguish variants”.

The national coronavirus command council will meet at the weekend to discuss whether the Covid-19 lockdown should be intensified after the discovery of the new variant. The variant, initially known as B.1.1.529, has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong.

Britain has already announced it would temporarily ban flights from SA and five other countries from 2pm (SA time) on Friday and that returning British travellers from those destinations would have to quarantine.

“We have been very transparent with scientific information. We identified, made data public, and raised the alarm as the infections are increasing. We did this to protect our country and the world in spite of potentially suffering massive discrimination,” De Oliveira wrote.

“This new variant is really worrisome at the mutational level. SA and Africa will need support (financial, public health, scientific) to control it so it does not spread in the world. Our poor and deprived population cannot be in lockdown without financial support.”

“We are working around the clock to understand effects on 1) transmissibility, 2) vaccines, 3) reinfection, disease severity, and diagnostics. We do have funding for science, but SA and Africa need financial help to support their deprived population and health system,” wrote De Oliveira.

I also want to [make a] plea to financial organisations @WorldBank @IMFNews @USAID @PEPFAR @GlobalFund to support the poor population and governments in SA and Africa to control and extinguish variants! By protecting its poor and oppressed population we will protect the world,” he added.

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