Travel bans over new Covid variant are uncalled for – Chakwera


President Lazarus Chakwera has condemned travel bans imposed on Southern African countries by  the United Kingdom and United States.

Chakwera, who is also chairperson of Southern African Development Community (SADC), has issued a statement today following travel bans against Southern African countries over the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant called Omicron.

“We are all concerned about the new Covid variant and owe South Africa’s scientists our thanks for identifying it before anyone else did. But the unilateral travel bans now imposed on SADC countries by the UK, EU, US, Australia, and others are uncalled for. Covid measures must be based on science, not Afrophobia,” Chakwera has posted on his Facebook page.

The new variant which was first discovered in South Africa has been classified by World Health Organization as B.1.1.529 (Omicron) and is characterized by an increased risk of re-infection as compared to the other variants of concern.

Following its discovery, Britain on Friday placed South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe on its red list. Travellers from these countries will be required to do a day 2 PCR test and self-isolate until they have got a negative result.

United States also announced restrictions which apply to South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

Reuters reported that most non-U.S. citizens who have been in those countries within the prior 14 days will not be allowed into the United States.

Australia, Israel and Singapore have also issued bans against countries in Southern Africa.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Health in Malawi said it had not found the Omicron variant among samples collected in the country.

The ministry added that Malawi Government has intensified the screening of travellers at all points of entry to prevent importation of Covid-19 cases.