South Africa being 'punished' for early detection of Omicron COVID variant
- South Africa's foreign ministry urged world leaders not to implement “knee-jerk” policy decisions
- A number of countries have imposed travel restrictions on southern Africa to contain the spread of the variant
- The Omicron variant has been dubbed as a 'variant of concern' by the WHO
The statement was made by the country's foreign ministry as a number of countries around the world curbed flights to and from southern African nations in an attempt to contain the spread of the virus.
The Omicron variant has been dubbed as a 'variant of concern' by the WHO, as scientists believe its numerous spike protein mutations make it potentially more infectious and vaccine resistant.
In a statement, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) urged world leaders not to implement “knee-jerk” policy decisions in response to the detection of the Omicron variant, PTI reported.
The 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,” it said.
DIRCO pointed out that new variants had been detected in other countries as well and "each of those cases had no recent links with Southern Africa".
However, "the reaction to those countries is starkly different to cases in Southern Africa," it said.
DIRCO said its officials are in discussion with the countries that have banned travel to and from South Africa to dissuade them from continuing the restrictions.
Foreign minister Naledi Pandor also slammed the UK and other countries for their move to impose travel ban on South Africa.
“Whilst we respect the right of all countries to take necessary precautionary measures to protect their citizens, we need to remember that this pandemic requires collaboration and sharing of expertise,” she said.
“Our immediate concern is the damage that these restrictions are causing to families, the travel and tourism industries and businesses,” Pandor added.