The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has cautioned countries across the world against imposing quick travel bans on travellers from Africa following the detection of a new variant of the Covid-19 virus.
South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) announced on 25 November it had detected a new Covid-19 variant said to be more infectious.
It was officially labelled as B.1.1.529 and the World Health Organisation (WHO) christened it the ‘Omicron’ variant.
However, hours after the detection of the variant, Western countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany, imposed flight bans on South Africa and six of its neighbours where the variant had been detected.
‘Africa CDC strongly discourages the imposition of travel ban for people originating from countries that have reported this variant’, the Director of the Africa CDC, Dr John Nkengasong, said in a statement.
‘In fact, over the duration of this pandemic, we have observed that imposing bans on travellers from countries where a new variant is reported has not yielded a meaningful outcome.
‘Rather, implementing PHSM should be prioritised’.
Public health and social measures (PHSMs) are measures or actions by individuals, institutions, communities, local and national governments and international bodies to slow or stop the spread of the disease
PHSM refers to public health and social measures such as face mask wearing, physical distancing, sanitising hands and adequate ventilation.
On Saturday, South Africa warned the quick bans could discourage further information sharing on scientific findings about the virus, making it difficult for the world to recover.
‘While we respect the right of all countries to take the necessary precautionary measures to protect their citizens, we need to remember that this pandemic requires collaboration and sharing of expertise’, South Africa’s Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, said.
WHO declared the new Covid-19 variant one of concern, but did not recommend lockdowns. Instead, the global health body recommended more field investigations, enhanced vaccinations and full adherence to public health guidelines.
Photo source: Africa CDC