South African president calls for lifting of Omicron travel bans


South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa has on Sunday condemned travel bans in what he described as “unjustified,” enacted against his country and its neighbours over the discovery of the new coronavirus variant Omicron.

Ramaphosa said he was “highly disappointed” by the action, and called on countries to immediately reverse the travel bans.

His comments comes as the heavily mutated new variant, Omicron is continually spreading around the world, with new cases identified in the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia.

Dozens of countries have blacklisted South Africa and its neighbours since South African scientists this week flagged the new variant, Omicron on November 25. The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated Omicron a “variant of concern” that is potentially more contagious than previous variants.

“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 prohibition of travel is not informed by science, 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,” he added.

The countries that have already imposed travel restrictions on southern Africa include key travel hub Qatar, the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Netherlands.

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