Travel bans punish SA for its excellent science, says international relations

The SA government says it has noted the travel ban imposed on the country after the detection of the new Covid-19 variant.
The SA government says it has noted the travel ban imposed on the country after the detection of the new Covid-19 variant.

The SA government said it had noted the announcements by several countries to institute temporary travel restrictions on the country and parts of the continent.

This comes after this week's detection of the new Covid-19 Omicron variant.

The UK was the first to impose a travel ban on Southern African countries on Friday.

Travellers from SA, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi have also been banned entry to the US and numerous other countries. 

“While we respect the right of all countries to take the necessary precautionary measures to protect their citizens, we need to remember that this pandemic requires collaboration and sharing of expertise,” the international relations and co-operation department said in a statement on Saturday.

“Our immediate concern is the damage that these restrictions are causing to families, the travel and tourism industries and business.”

The department said it had already started speaking to countries that had imposed travel restrictions in the hope they would reconsider.

“We also note that new variants have been detected in other countries. Each of those cases has had no recent links with Southern Africa. It’s worth noting that the reaction to those countries is starkly different from cases in Southern Africa,” it said.

 “This latest round of travel bans is akin to punishing SA for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker. Excellent science should be applauded and not punished. The global community needs collaboration and partnerships in the management of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The World Health Organisation has pleaded with world leaders not to engage in knee-jerk reactions and has cautioned against the imposition of travel restrictions.”

WHO head of emergencies Dr Michael Ryan said: “We’ve seen in the past, the minute there’s any kind of mention of any kind of variation and everyone is closing borders and restricting travel. It’s really important that we remain open, and stay focused”.


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