In a speech to the nation on Sunday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa criticized the growing list of countries imposing travel bans on South Africa and its neighbors over the emerging variant of Omicron. of Covid-19.
“We are extremely disappointed by the decision of several countries to ban travel from certain southern African countries, including our own, after the identification of the Omicron variant. This is a clear departure and completely groundless compared to the commitment many of these countries made at the G20 meeting in Rome last month,” said Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa went on to list countries and territories and called for the lifting of travel restrictions.
“These restrictions are completely unreasonable and unfairly discriminatory against our country and our sister countries in South Africa. Travel bans are not informed by science, nor will they be effective in stopping the spread of this variant. The only thing that the travel ban will do will cause further damage to the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond and recover from the pandemic,” he said.
Ramaphosa praised the country’s scientists for early detection of the variant and their work in understanding its potential impact.
He said that the Omicron variant was responsible for most of the infections found in Gauteng province in the past two weeks and is now appearing in other provinces. He asserted that the country is seeing a sharp increase in infections.
“If cases continue to rise, we could enter a fourth wave of infections within the next few weeks, if not sooner,” he said.
Some context: South African scientists have long believed that a fourth wave is coming in South Africa during this time, Ramaphosa reiterated.
“This is not surprising,” he said.
Ramaphosa encouraged South Africans to get vaccinated and said the government was exploring vaccine mandates to accelerate vaccine uptake. Currently, about 35% of the population is vaccinated in South Africa. He said that the country will remain at coronavirus level 1, one of the lowest in the country.
“Coronavirus will be with us for a long time. Therefore, we must find ways to manage the pandemic while limiting disruption to the economy and ensuring continuity,” he said.