Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa has called on countries to urgently reverse “scientifically unjustified” travel restrictions linked to the discovery of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
“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, in his first address to the nation since the detection of Omicron.
The African country’s head’s comments on Sunday came as the highly mutated variant continued spreading around the world, with new cases identified in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Australia. The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated Omicron a “variant of concern” that is potentially more contagious than previous variants.
Several countries have blacklisted South Africa and its neighbours since South African scientists this week flagged the new variant.
“The prohibition of travel is not informed by science,” according to Ramaphosa.
He went on to say: “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.”
Ramaphosa has alleged that these restrictions are “unjustified and unfairly discriminate against” his country and their southern African sister countries.
Ramaphosa also called on rich countries to stop fuelling vaccine inequality, describing jabs as the “most powerful tool” to limit Omicron’s transmission.
President of Malawi, Lazarus Chakwera on Sunday accused Western countries of “Afrophobia” for shutting their borders.