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African Leaders Slam Travel Bans As 'Afrophobia', Say They're Not Backed By Science

Hannah Blackiston

Published 

African Leaders Slam Travel Bans As 'Afrophobia', Say They're Not Backed By Science

Featured Image Credit: REUTERS / Alamy Stock Photo

Concerns over the Omicron variant of the coronavirus have sparked a number of travel bans, primarily targeting South Africa and its neighbours.

But experts have condemned Australia and other countries for closing their borders to travellers from the region, saying the knee-jerk reaction isn't supported by science.

In a press conference, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the restrictions were 'scientifically unjustified' and should be 'urgently' reversed.

"We call upon all those countries that have imposed travel bans on our country and our southern African sister countries to immediately and urgently reverse their decisions," Ramaphosa said.

"The prohibition of travel is not informed by science.

"The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic," he added.

South Africa was the first country to report the new variant, but it has been identified in a number of other countries including the UK, Germany, Australia and Israel.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, supported Ramaphosa's comments.


"The speed and transparency of the South African and Botswana governments in informing the world of the new variant is to be commended," he said.

"WHO stands with African countries which had the courage to boldly share life-saving public health information, helping protect the world against the spread of COVID-19.

"On the eve of a special session on pandemic preparedness I urge all countries to respect their legal obligations and implement scientifically based public health actions.

"It is critical that countries which are open with their data are supported as this is the only way to ensure we receive important data in a timely manner.

"With the Omicron variant now detected in several regions of the world, putting in place travel bans that target Africa attacks global solidarity.

"COVID-19 constantly exploits our divisions. We will only get the better of the virus if we work together for solutions."

President of Malawi Lazarus Chakwera said in a statement that the closures were based in 'Afrophobia', not science.

"We are all concerned about the new Covid variant and owe South Africa's scientists our thanks for identifying it before anyone else did," Chakwera said.

"But the unilateral travel bans now imposed on SADC countries by the UK, EU, US, Australia, and others are uncalled for. Covid measures must be based on science, not Afrophobia."

The Australian government has moved to reintroduce some travel restrictions until more is known about Omicron.

Non-Australian citizens who have been in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, The Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique now can't enter Australia.

Aussie citizens and their dependents who have been in those southern African countries where the variant has been detected will have spend two weeks in quarantine when they come home.

If someone has recently returned from one of those nine areas then they have to immediately isolate for two weeks.

New South Wales and Victoria have also both introduced mandatory 72-hour isolation requirements for all international arrivals.

Topics: Omicron, covid, Africa, News, Australia

Hannah Blackiston
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