The decision of a number of countries to to impose travel restrictions on South Africa was called “unjustified” by the country’s South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla.
The travel restrictions were imposed in relation to the discovery of a significantly mutated form of Covid-19 in his country.
“The kind of knee-jerk reaction, it really doesn’t make sense,” Phaahla said at a media briefing, adding that travel bans violate the norms and standards of the World Health Organization.
He chastised other countries for “wanting to assign blame” and blaming the variation on South Africa rather than cooperating to handle the matter as the WHO recommended.
“Covid-19 is a global health emergency. We must work together, not punish each other,” Phaahla said. “Witch hunts don’t benefit anyone. South Africa wants to be an honest player in the world, to share health info not just of benefit to South Africans and citizens of the world.”
The latest variant, referred to as B.1.1.529 was discovered in limited numbers across South Africa. According to the WHO has assigned on the 5th of June Greek Omicron as the letter. Omicron in the case of the variation.
Phaala has said that preliminary studies suggest that the variant is more likely to be transmissible due its genetic make-up, however she noted that vaccines have proven effective in the prevention of the development of severe Covid due to the variation.
According to reports, on Friday morning instances of the latest variant have been discovered throughout Israel, Hong Kong and Belgium.
In the early hours of Friday earlier, the WHO warned countries against immediately impose travel restrictions related to the latest variant of the virus. They should adopt an “risk-based and scientific approach,” Reuters said.
However, some European as well as Asian states have responded with temporary travel bans on the southern part of Africa.
A panel comprising health professionals from of the 27 EU countries “agreed on the need to activate the emergency break & impose temporary restriction on all travel into EU from southern Africa,” the Slovenian presidency of the EU announced on Twitter.
The United Kingdom also announced Thursday it would suspend temporarily flights to six African countries comprising South Africa, starting midday Friday. The decision was made with no any prior discussions in consultation with South Africa, Phaahla said.
The Deputy Health Minister Sibongiseni Dhlomo said at the press conference that he believes the indications indicate of the U.S. will divert from other nations , but not issue an embargo on travel.
On Friday evening, White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN’s “New Day” the U.S. will be in contact to scientists in South Africa to “get the facts” about the new variant. Fauci claimed that “The U.S. is in “very active communication” with South African scientists to get the molecular basis that the new variant has.
(Adapted from Business-Standard.com)