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  • South Africa complains flight bans are ‘punishment’ for it detecting Omicron, new Covid-19 variant | South China Morning Post

    South Africa complains flight bans are ‘punishment’ for it detecting Omicron, new Covid-19 variant. Many nations have banned flights from countries in southern Africa; South Africa government says ‘science should be applauded, not punished’ . South Africa has complained it is being “punished” for detecting a new Covid-19 variant which the World Health Organization has termed a “variant of concern” and is more transmissible than the dominant Delta strain. The decision by a host of countries to ban flights from southern Africa following the discovery of the Omicron variant “is akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker,” the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.“Excellent science should be applauded and not punished,” it said, adding that new variants had been discovered in other parts of the world.“Each of those cases have had no recent links with Southern Africa, but the reaction to those countries is starkly different to cases in Southern Africa,” it said.The variant was first discovered in South Africa and has since been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.UK bans travel from South Africa after emergence of new heavily-mutated Covid-19 variant
    A minister in the German state of Hesse said on Saturday that the variant had very probably arrived in Germany, in a traveller returning from South Africa. Czech health authorities said they were examining a suspected case of the variant in a person who spent time in Namibia.
    South Africa said its “capacity to test and its ramped-up vaccination programme, backed up by a world-class scientific community should give our global partners the comfort that we are doing as well as they are in managing the pandemic”.Anxious travellers thronged Johannesburg international airport, desperate to squeeze onto the last flights to countries that had imposed sudden travel bans. Many had shortened their holidays and rushed away from South African safaris and vineyards. “It’s ridiculous, we will always be having new variants,” said British tourist David Good, passport in hand. “South Africa found it but it’s probably all over the world already.”The main countries targeted by travel shutdowns include South Africa, Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.Scientists are now racing to determine the threat posed by the heavily mutated strain, and whether current vaccines should be adjusted. Markets and oil prices around the world plunged on Friday as news of the latest setback in the fight against the pandemic sank in.
    US President Joe Biden said countries should donate more vaccines and give up intellectual property protections to manufacture more doses worldwide.
    “The news about this new variant should make clearer than ever why this pandemic will not end until we have global vaccinations,” he said.The WHO said it could take weeks to understand the variant and cautioned against imposing travel curbs while scientific evidence was still scant.But many countries around the world, including the US, Australia and Japan, moved to try to clamp down on the new variant by restricting flights.EU officials agreed in an emergency meeting to urge all 27 nations in the bloc to restrict travel from southern Africa, with many members having already done so.