South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday criticised the travel bans imposed by western countries on parts of Africa over the spread of Omicron, the new COVID-19 variant.
Mr. Ramaphosa, who spoke at the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security, said the travel bans signalled western hypocrisy.
The Omicron variant was first identified in Southern Africa but is believed to have been spreading in Europe undetected much earlier.
” . . . when South African scientists discovered the new variant Omicron, we immediately took on the responsibility of informing the world. However what was the result?” Mr. Ramaphosa queried.
“The western countries imposed a ban – as it were to punish excellence coming from Africa, preventing our people from traveling. However, this new variant continues to spread across the globe, beyond Southern Africa, including in their own countries.
“And so one asks, where is science? These countries have always said to us that we should base our decisions on science. But when the time comes for them to apply it to themselves, they do not, but resort to their own self-interest.
“We say that these bans must be removed with immediate effect.
“The devastating impact this travel ban will have is well-known. The UN Secretary-General has called it travel apartheid.
“These travel bans will devastate the economies of Southern Africa that are dependent on tourism. They go precisely against what was agreed at the G20 in Italy earlier this year when it was said we must open up travel so the tourism sector can recover.
“Instead they are closing it down in Africa. This is hypocrisy of the worst order and must come to an end.”