Cape Town - As news of a more transmissible, highly infectious variant of Covid-19 made international headlines on Friday, several countries have taken bold steps to impose travel bans on South Africa and several other African countries, after SA scientists alerted the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday to the new variant.
Nabarro said that the global health authority is grateful at the speed, transparency and openness of the South African scientists for sharing their research with the WHO and the world.
He added that South Africa and neighbouring countries in southern Africa are facing a tremendous backlash for transparency on its research, leading to hasty actions that could be seen as punishment. This, he says, has negative ramifications for South Africa as it makes efforts to rebuilds its economy.
WHO has said in a statement on Friday that the new Covid-19 variant, B.1.1.529, has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning.
The global health authority said its Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) is an independent group of experts that periodically monitors and evaluates the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 and assesses if specific mutations and combinations of mutations alter the behaviour of the virus.
The TAG-VE was convened on Friday to assess the SARS-CoV-2 variant: B.1.1.529, which the WHO has now dubbed ‘Omicron,’ a name TAG-VE has advised WHO since it is considered a Volatile Organic Compound (VOCs) with preliminary evidence suggesting that there is an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, said WHO.
So if you are planning your December holiday, you might want to take note of these following countries that have placed air travel restrictions on South Africa amid the discovery of the new variant.
The United Kingdom (UK) was the first country to place travel bans from South Africa and five other Southern African countries as a precautionary measure to contain the spread of the virus.
However, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) said that the UK’s decision was rushed.
On Friday, in a Twitter post, European Union president Ursula von der Leyen said the Commission would propose, in close coordination with member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the African region where the B.1.1.529 has been reported.
United States of America
The Biden administration joined a chorus of nations prohibiting flights from South Africa and several other southern African countries in the wake of the discovery of the new variant.
The travel restrictions will begin Monday, November 29, affecting South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, eSwatini, Mozambique and Malawi, according to a senior administration official.
Travellers from South Africa, as well as Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, will not be permitted into the Seychelles from Saturday, the Seychelles News Agency reported.
The Japanese government said in a statement that it would tighten border controls for visitors from South Africa and five other African countries, according to international media.
According to Business Tech, French Health Minister Olivier Véran announced on Friday afternoon that flights from South Africa and neighbouring countries would be suspended for 48 hours, according to reports.
Singapore, Israel, India
Singapore and Israel have already announced new travel restrictions, while India has issued an advisory to all states to rigorously test and screen international travellers from South Africa and other “at-risk” countries amidst concerns over the variant, Business Tech reported on Friday.
Germany has also halted flights to the country, in wake of the European Union’s decision to halt flights to SA.
Canada, Australia and the Philippines
Canada, Australia and the Philippines joined the growing list of countries to either suspend flights to and from South Africa, or add further restrictions on travel to the country, international media reported.
The Netherlands has imposed a ban on all flights departing from Southern Africa, which came into immediate effect on Friday.
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