Leading African leaders have pushed back against new travel restrictions imposed mainly by Western governments against Africans due to the new Omicron COVID strain.
On Monday November 29, the ban by the US government on flights from eight African countries came into effect.
US President Joe Biden described the ban on flights from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi, as a temporary measure and one that will allow experts time to study the new strain.
The United Kingdom and the European union also imposed immediate bans on travellers from the same African countries.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa however denounced the new travel restrictions, noting that African countries need help not bans.
“Instead of prohibiting travel, the rich countries of the world need to support the efforts of developing economies to access and to manufacture enough vaccine doses for their people without delay,” said Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa has received strong support from other influential African leaders such as Akinwumi Adesina the African Development Banks President and Winnie Byanyima, the Director General of the United Nations Aids Agency UNAIDS.
Adesina said: “Africa should not be labelled and penalized for COVID-19 variants and mutations that occur randomly elsewhere in the world. Africa is not the source of COVID-19”
Adesina added: “There must be global justice, equity & fairness in access to vaccines. Global vaccine supply system has underserved Africa. Protecting one’s home alone in the midst of a forest fire does not work. Put out the forest fire.”
The WHO declared the new Omicron variant as a variant of concern that is highly transmissible and dangerous.
News of the new variant have triggered panic including stopping up to 350 passengers from South Africa from leaving their aircraft on November 26 in the Netherlands.
Critics against the travel restrictions say that Africa is being blackmailed and that it is possible the variant could have started in Europe or other countries considering that cases have been rising lately in most western countries.