Omicron: No scientific basis for travel alerts – AU boss

Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat (C) delivers a speech at the opening of the 35th Ordinary Session of the Executive Committee of the Meeting of the African Union at the Palais des Congres in Niamey, on July 4, 2019, ahead of the Heads of States of the African Union Summit in Niger. (Photo by ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP)

By Grace Audi –

President of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat, claims the world owes Africa responsibility for lifting travel restrictions imposed on the continent due to the new Covid-19 variant.

Mr Faki claimed there was no “common sense” or scientific explanation behind the travel prohibitions during an African Union-UN meeting on Wednesday, especially because it was discovered it existed in numerous areas long before South African scientists isolated it.

“We have told UN agencies that there is no scientific basis for these travel bans,” Faki said at a forum commemorating slavery in New York. “This variant was found to be circulating in Europe before it was identified in South Africa.”

“We criticize and oppose travel restrictions that are based on neither science nor common sense. It is immoral to blame a country because its scientists alerted the world to the existence of a new variety. “A human being’s existence should be the same in the face of a common enemy,” he added.

Faki commented in the wake of the discovery of Omicron, a novel form of the Covid-19 virus. Last Monday, South African scientists stated that they had uncovered a more contagious variation with numerous alterations from the original kind. And, despite the fact that South Africa’s infection rate had increased, there was more evidence that this form existed in other countries, like Germany, in groups with no history of travel to South Africa.

The majority of countries, on the other hand, have put a travel ban on Africans, raising consternation on the continent.

Most of the countries have however imposed a blockade on travel from Africa, causing anger to the continent. Last week, the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said the history of the pandemic had showed lockdowns work less effectively compared to physical distancing, mask wearing, sanitisation and vaccination. It didn’t stop the US, Germany, UK, and Canada from restricting travel from South Africa.

On Wednesday, Bangaldesh caused more furore after restricting travellers from the entire African continent ostensibly to prevent admission of the new variant.

The New Age newspaper, citing the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abdul Momen, said the country had instructed its missions in Africa to restrict giving travel papers to travellers from the continent. Those who arrive from the continent will be forced into a 14-day quarantine at their own cost.

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