Brian Sokutu
Senior Print Journalist
1 minute read
30 Nov 2021
6:16 am

Omicron variant: Push against SA travel bans

Brian Sokutu

There has been mounting pressure on Western countries to end the travel blockade of South Africa and Botswana due to Omicron.

Travellers walk near an electronic flight notice board displaying cancelled flights at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on November 27, 2021, after several countries banned flights from South Africa following the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant Omicron. (Photo by Phill Magakoe / AFP)

From the World Health Organisation (WHO), African Union (AU) southern African governments, to local experts – there has been mounting pressure on Western countries to end the travel blockade of South Africa and Botswana due to the reported Covid-19 variant Omicron.

The new variant – initially identified as B.1.1.529 – was as declared a Variant of Concern (VoC) by the World Health Organisation on Friday.

Omicron variant travel bans

Outcry over travel bans

Ironically, it was South Africa that first reported the variant – in line with the WHO convention – sparking an outcry from several commentators, arguing that SA was being “punished instead of being applauded”.

Countries at the forefront of the SA travel ban included the US, United Kingdom, Mauritius, Germany and Dubai.

The department of international relations and cooperation spokesperson Clayson Monyela on Monday lambasted “some African countries who, despite benefitting from SA’s vaccines donation”, also red-listed South Africa.

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‘Quite regrettable, very unfortunate’

“It is quite regrettable, very unfortunate and sad to be talking about travel restrictions imposed by a fellow African country.”

“There are also three other African countries which have taken this decision to impose restrictions on travel to SA and other countries in southern Africa”.

“This decision is unwarranted and unjustified because it is not based on science,” Monyela said.

South Africans abroad urged to push back

Monyela urged all South Africans stranded abroad to contact any of the SA’s 124 missions or the department’s 24-hour operational centre in Pretoria for consular assistance.

WHO regional director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti said: “It is critical that countries which are open with their data are supported”.

“This is the only way to ensure we receive important data in a timely manner.”