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South Africa being punished with travel ban for detecting new variants quicker: President

JOHANNESURG

South Africa’s president said Wednesday that the latest round of COVID-19-related travel bans is akin to punishing the country for its advanced genomic sequencing and ability to detect new variants quicker.

“Excellent science should be applauded and not punished,” Cyril Ramaphosa said in his opening remarks during a state visit to Nigeria.

Last week, South African scientists announced that they had discovered a new COVID-19 variant with a large number of mutations compared to previous variants and reported it to the World Health Organization (WHO), which named it omicron.

Days later, a number of countries imposed travel bans on South Africa and other southern African countries, including Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

“As we meet today, we have noted the announcements by several countries to institute travel restrictions on South Africa and other countries in our region as a result of the discovery by our scientists of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus,” Ramaphosa said according to a statement from his office.

“Whilst we respect the right of all countries to take the necessary precautionary measures to protect their citizens, we need to remember that this pandemic requires collaboration and sharing of expertise,” he said during the 10th session of the Binational Commission between South Africa and Nigeria.

Ramaphosa said his country’s immediate concern over the travel bans is the damage that the restrictions are causing to families, the travel and tourism industries and business.

“It is our hope that the countries that have imposed these bans urgently reconsider their decisions,” he said.

He applauded his host President Muhammadu Buhari for the solidarity he and his government have expressed with South Africa, which sends the strongest of messages.

“It says that as African countries, we are standing united against the imposition of arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions that are not only unscientific but counter-productive in the long run,” he said at a joint press briefing with Buhari.

Ramaphosa also said that the leaders of Ivory Coast, where he will travel to later, as well as of Ghana and Senegal have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the travel bans against South Africa and other southern Africa countries.​​​​​​​

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