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By Citizen Reporter


Ramaphosa slams Africa travel ban and vaccine inequality

Ramaphosa reiterates calls for a TRIPS waiver, criticises west travel bans and vaccine inequality.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has once again slammed the international reaction to Africa discovering the Omicron variant and vaccine inequality.

He was addressing the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 8th ACT-Accelerator Facilitation Council meeting.

The meeting is to assess progress on global targets for access to Covid-19 tools and identify urgent political actions to accelerate their achievement.

Ramaphosa told the meeting that the pandemic was far from over. But he also took the opportunity to register concerns about how Africa has been treated throughout the pandemic.

Travel bans hurt Africa’s economy

Ramaphosa reminded the WHO that many countries reported a rise in infections, hospitalisations and deaths before South African scientists identified the new Omicron variant.

“As the events of the past few days have shown, we live with the threat from mutating variants, which have the potential to unleash further devastation in communities globally,” said Ramaphosa.

He said scientists are still studying the Omicron variant and could not conclusively prove if it is transmitted more efficiently, whether the variant increases the risk of reinfection, causes severe disease, or the effectiveness of the current vaccines.

“Yet, several countries have decided to isolate several countries on the African continent. We should be concerned that science no longer informs some decisions and are not taken based on exercising solidarity,” said Ramaphosa.

“This pandemic has shown how we respond to a truly global crisis. It has shown several shortcomings and weaknesses.”

He urged the council to improve crisis response because billions of lives and livelihoods were at stake.

Vaccine inequality

“We have repeatedly said that no one will be safe unless we protect vulnerable populations everywhere,” Ramaphosa told the council.

He said vaccine inequality is dangerous and avoidable.

It’s been a year since the world’s most ambitious vaccination drive began, yet only 0.6% of the 7.5 billion world doses have been in lower-income countries.

Currently, 71% of middle to high-income countries have received doses.

“Africa is the hardest hit by inequitable access to these life-saving vaccines,” said Ramaphosa.

“For this reason, we still insist on a TRIPS Waiver, even in its various forms where it can be negotiated.”

TRIPS – the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights – protects manufacturers’ patents against copying.

Since last October, South Africa and India have been campaigning hard for a TRIPS waiver on the manufacture of Covid-19 vaccines.

(Compiled by Narissa Subramoney)

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