Omicron COVID Strain
The new COVID variant was initially detected in South Africa and Botswana and sparked major concerns due to its high number of mutations (32). The WHO dubbed the strain Omicron and warned it may prove to be more transmissible and dangerous than other coronavirus variants.
Omicron: South Africa Laments Travel Restrictions, Calling Them 'Punishment' For 'Excellent Science'
03:28 GMT 28.11.2021 (Updated: 11:33 GMT 28.11.2021)
It’s yet unknown exactly how dangerous the new COVID-19 variant, which was detected in South Africa on November 24 and called Omicron, is. Only 35 percent of the adult population is vaccinated in South Africa, leaving a vast field for the spread of other strains of coronavirus.
The swift air travel bans imposed on southern African countries as a response to emergenece of the Omicron variant of coronavirus are seen by South African officials as a flagrantly unfair punishment for the "excellent work" of local virologists and the honesty of the government, according to a Saturday statement from the country’s Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation.
“This latest round of travel bans is akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker," the statement reads. "Excellent science should be applauded and not punished."
The statement notes that even though the Omicron variant has been detected in other countries, "the reaction to those countries is starkly different to cases in southern Africa."
The country, whose economy partly depends on tourism, earlier had proposed alternatives to travel restrictions, such as enhancing testing in airports and expanding the quarantine period.
"Our immediate concern is the damage that these restrictions are causing to families, the travel and tourism industries and business," South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said in the statement.
Following reports about the discovery of a new strain of coronavirus in southern Africa, which is believed to have an increased ability to mutate, many countries began suspending flights to some African states. Among the countries that have imposed travel restrictions are the US, Canada, Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, Israel and the UAE.
Meanwhile, the new variant has been already found in the UK, Germany, Czech Republic, Israel and Hong Kong.