‘Finding scapegoats’: S Africa slams ‘unjustified’ travel bans

“Unjustified”, “draconian” and “counterproductive” – these are simply a few of phrases utilized by South Africa’s well being minister as he criticised international locations world wide that determined to limit travel from the nation and its neighbours in an try to comprise the unfold of a brand new coronavirus variant.

The pressure – designated a “variant of concern” on Friday by the World Health Organization (WHO), which additionally named it Omicron after a letter within the Greek alphabet – has been blamed for a surge in new infections in South Africa.

Omicron has additionally been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel.

“We believe that some of the reactions have been unjustified,” Health Minister Joe Phaahla informed reporters, accusing leaders of “finding scapegoats to deal with what is a worldwide problem”.

‘Wrong approach’

Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United States have been amongst these on Friday that joined the United Kingdom in limiting flights from southern Africa.

The European Commission, the chief arm of the 27-nation European Union, additionally proposed a whole suspension of flights to and from the area till there was a “clear understanding about the danger” that it stated was posed by the brand new variant.

However, the WHO on Friday urged towards travel curbs at this stage. The United Nations’ well being company cautioned that it might take a number of weeks to seek out out whether or not the newly-discovered mutations made the virus extra virulent or transmissible.

Phaala stated that bans have been “a wrong approach – it’s misdirected and goes against the norms and advice by the WHO”.

The restrictions have despatched shockwaves by South Africa’s vacationer trade, which has been seeking to guests from the wealthier northern hemisphere to herald desperately-needed revenue.

At Johannesburg’s worldwide airport, there was frustration early on Friday as dozens of individuals tried to return to the UK.

“It’s unfair, it’s unjustified, it’s abrupt and it’s not good for tourism for South Africa,” stated a passenger of the ban.

Phaala, in the meantime, in contrast every day infections in South Africa and a few European international locations, saying it was ironic that “some of the countries … now reacting in this draconian manner” had an infection charges of greater than 50,000 per day.

That contrasts to South Africa which reported nearly 3,000 every day instances on Friday, up from approximately 300 every day instances two weeks in the past.

“That kind of reaction is knee-jerk and panic,” he stated, warning that such responses might immediate international locations to draw back from reporting new findings.

“It’s a very counterproductive reaction because what it says is if you have the capability to do genomic sequencing and have high level of efficiency … those capabilities must be driven underground,” stated Phaahla. People will “feel that it is a risk to disclose” their findings, he argued.

‘Vaccine apartheid’

Tulio de Oliveira, a number one virologist who introduced the invention of the variant, slammed the “radical decision” to droop flights out of the area.

“Sometimes one gets punished for being transparent, and doing things very quick,” he informed the identical information convention.

He stated he didn’t consider travel bans have been efficient, citing the US, the primary nation to have imposed a travel ban on China on the onset of the pandemic, however ended up with the very best numbers of infections.

“So scientifically it [does] not make much sense. A lot of time people take decisions based on emotions not rationality,” he stated.

Scientists additionally stated the main target ought to be on getting extra individuals vaccinated in locations which have struggled to entry enough pictures.

“This is why we talked about the risk of vaccine apartheid. This virus can evolve in the absence of adequate levels of vaccination. It’s upsetting that it takes this to happen to get the point across,” Richard Lessells, a South Africa-based infectious illness knowledgeable concerned in detecting variants, informed Reuters information company.