In a bid to stay abreast of rapidly developing information regarding the new Covid-19 Omicron variant, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has assured that communication lines with countries opting to ban travel to and from South Africa are open and being pursued.
In a statement released on Saturday, Dirco Minister Naledi Pandor said the department “noted” the travel restrictions, but aligned itself with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) position “not to engage in knee-jerk reactions”, and has cautioned against travel restrictions.
ALSO READ: Travel ban on SA: What we know so far
Pandor said South Africa was already engaging with regions where travel bans had been imposed, and are attempting to “persuade them to reconsider”.
WHO head of emergencies Dr Michael Ryan has stressed the importance of waiting first on data and more information before restricting travel.
“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,” Ryan said.
Dirco said new variants had been detected in other countries as well, with these cases showing “no recent links with southern Africa”.
The department emphasised the reaction to other variants “is starkly different to cases in southern Africa”.
“This latest round of travel bans is akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker.
“Excellent science should be applauded and not punished.”
In addition, Pandor assured the international community that South Africa’s ramped-up vaccinated programme, combined with the capacity to test for variants and Covid-19, show that “we are doing as well as they [the globe] are in managing the pandemic.”
Pandor said while South Africa respected the right of countries to take “necessary precautions” to protect their citizens, the pandemic required “collaboration and sharing of expertise”.
“Our immediate concern is the damage that these restrictions are causing to families, the travel and tourism industries and business.”
Compiled by Nica Richards