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South Africa says travel ban by African nations ‘regrettable’



South Africa says travel ban by African nations ‘regrettable’

South Africa said on Monday it was “unfortunate … (and) sad” that other African nations were joining the rush of rich countries to impose travel bans on the new variant of Covid.

“It is quite regrettable, very unfortunate, and I will even say sad, to speak of the travel restrictions imposed by another African country,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela.

Angola, Mauritius, Rwanda and the Seychelles have stopped flights from South Africa in an attempt to protect themselves from Omicron.

“What I do not understand is that some of these African countries that are doing this, know the struggles (that) as a continent that we have, where the European countries will make this decision and impose travel bans,” Monyela said.

He said South Africa had recently made “substantial donations” of vaccines to some of the countries that now impose flight bans.

“When an African country does that, especially in the context where most of these countries are beneficiaries … it doesn’t make sense,” he told an online press conference organized by the Ministry of Health.

Monyela said her ministry was urging countries across the continent and beyond that rushed to impose travel restrictions to reverse them “immediately.”

Dozens of nations from Europe to Asia have imposed travel restrictions on South Africa and its neighbors since their scientists singled out Omicron last Thursday.

Mauritius and Rwanda were the last African countries to suspend flights.

Rwanda announced late Sunday that it would suspend direct flights to and from nine southern African countries.

All passengers who landed from those countries in the past seven days now have to spend a week in quarantine at designated hotels, at their own cost.

On Saturday, the director of the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority, Arvind Bundhun, said in a statement that it was “with regret” that the government made the decision to suspend all flights from southern Africa.

Meanwhile, Angola, which is among the blacklisted southern African nations, suspended all flights to and from Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa over the weekend until further notice.

Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera, whose country is also blacklisted, accused Western countries of “Afrophobia” for closing their borders.

Botswana, where scientists say the variant was first described, also warned against the “geopolitics” of the virus.

An outraged South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, on Sunday called on countries to “immediately and urgently reverse” travel restrictions, which he said were scientifically “unjustified.”

Health Minister Joe Phaahla said that many South Africans had felt that the country had rushed to publicize the discovery of the new Omicron variant and that if it had been kept quiet, the travel bans would not have occurred.

“But that would have been detrimental, because our approach is that our citizens do not live in false security and false security,” Phaahla said.

Travel restrictions have dealt a further blow to South Africa’s tourism industry, which had expected the southern hemisphere summer to bring an influx of visitors from the wealthy north.

Source Credit: TheGuardian

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