Remember how I said that most African countries are better at detecting and dealing with epidemics than places like Europe and the U.S.? Omicron had already been in Europe for a number of days before Botswana raised the alarm. The Dutch just missed it.
Dutch health authorities announced on Tuesday that they found the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus in cases dating back as long as 11 days, indicating that it was already spreading in western Europe before the first cases were identified in southern Africa. The RIVM health institute said it found Omicron in samples dating from November 19 and 23.
So did the Belgians and the Germans.
And yet, despite the undisputed fact that this variant has been detected on every continent, the travel bans targeting African countries remain in place, and continue to harm the economies of those countries. The bans need to be lifted, and so-called “Western Civilization” needs to get its head out of its own ass and take a global perspective on this global problem. I feel like I shouldn’t need to say this, but it’s possible – just possible – that lives are at stake, so maybe they should listen to the WHO and change their policies.
The World Health Organization on Sunday echoed calls by South Africa’s president for countries to eschew travel bans targeting southern Africans amid the spread of the heavily mutated Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
“Travel restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of Covid-19 but place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods,” the WHO said in a statement calling for borders to remain open. “If restrictions are implemented, they should not be unnecessarily invasive or intrusive, and should be scientifically based, according to the International Health Regulations, which is a legally binding instrument of international law recognized by over 190 nations.”
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, added that “the speed and transparency of the South African and Botswana governments in informing the world of the new variant is to be commended. WHO stands with African countries which had the courage to boldly share lifesaving public health information, helping protect the world against the spread of Covid-19.”
In recent days, dozens of nations including the United States have prohibited travelers from numerous nations in southern Africa due to concerns about the Omicron variant, which was first identified in Botswana earlier this month. On Friday, the WHO classified the new strain as a “variant of concern.”
On Sunday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa urged nations that have imposed bans on African travelers to rescind what he called the “scientifically unjustified” restrictions.
“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 said. “These restrictions are unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country and our southern African sister countries.”