The African Union and United Nations have strongly criticized travel restrictions placed on several Southern African countries following the confirmation of the Omicron variant of the Covid-19.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that the restrictions could lead to “travel apartheid”, describing them as “deeply unfair, punitive and ineffective” in stopping the spread of the variant.
He said Africans should not be collectively punished for sharing health information with the world.
The AU chairperson Chairperson Mahamat Faki said wealthier nations should help the continent increase its vaccination rates which currently stand at under 6% while some developed countries were already giving third booster shots.
1/2We condemn & challenge the travel measures that have no basis in science nor common sense. To condemn a country because its scientists alerted the world of the prevalence of a new variant,is immoral. In the face of a common enemy, the life of a human being should be the same. pic.twitter.com/1NXIVZB5Cx
— Moussa Faki Mahamat (@AUC_MoussaFaki) December 1, 2021
Complains of punishment
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Nigerian counterpart asked countries to reverse the travel bans imposed by a host of countries including the UK, EU and US since it confirmed cases of the omicron variant.
President Ramaphosa said he was “deeply disappointed” by the action, which he described as unjustified, and called for the bans to be urgently lifted.
The World Health Organization says at least 23 countries globally have now reported cases of Omicron.
.@WHO takes the Omicron emergence extremely seriously, and so should every country. We call on all countries to optimize public health and social measures, and ensure that high-risk and vulnerable individuals in all countries are fully vaccinated immediately. #COVID19
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) December 1, 2021
The new variant B.1.1.529, officially named omicron, was first discovered on November 11, 2021, in Botswana, in southern Africa.
Since then, it has been found in South Africa and many other countries around the world.
According to scientists up to 90% of all new coronavirus cases in Gauteng, South Africa may be linked to omicron.
According to researchers the new variant shows an “extremely” high number of mutations of the coronavirus.
32 mutations were found in the spike protein compared to the delta variant, which is considered highly infectious with eight mutations.