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South Africa says it is being ‘punished’ for detecting new COVID-19 variant

South African government officials are saying that their country is being punished for discovering the COVID-19 Omicron variant after flights to the country have been cancelled.

On Saturday, the South African Union released a statement criticizing the new travel bans to South Africa that several countries have implemented. “Excellent science should be applauded and not punished,” the statement said, adding that the bans were “akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker”. In the statement, officials claimed that when other variants had been discovered elsewhere, the reactions were very different.

Additionally, a spokesperson for the African Union spoke to BBC, where they said that South Africa was not at fault for the emergence of the variant and that developed countries were to blame.

“What is going on right now is inevitable, it’s a result of the world’s failure to vaccinate in an equitable, urgent and speedy manner. It is as a result of hoarding [of vaccines] by high-income countries of the world, and quite frankly it is unacceptable,” Ayoade Alakija, the AU vaccine delivery alliance co-chair said. “These travel bans are based in politics, and not in science. It is wrong… Why are we locking away Africa when this virus is already on three continents?”

Countries currently preventing or restricting travelers from South Africa to enter their borders are the UK, the US, Australia, India, Canada, and Israel, which has closed its borders to all foreign travelers. The omicron variant is said to be more contagious and less receptive to the Covid-19 vaccine. About 24% of South Africans are vaccinated.

ARTICLE: RITA VOGT

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: AXIOS

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