South Africa travel ban
(Getty Images)
  • The African Union wants several member states to urgently drop their restrictions on South African travellers.
  • African nations with travel restrictions include Angola, Seychelles, Rwanda, Morocco, Mauritius, and Egypt, according to Flight Centre.
  • The union says that, in addition to these travel bans being unscientific, they have a negative socioeconomic impact.
  • Restrictions also limit the capacity of essential medical supplies and reagents needed to study the Omicron variant.
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The African Union (AU) has called on member states to urgently rescind travel bans imposed on South Africa following the detection of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Researchers and scientists from South Africa's Network for Genomic Surveillance were the first to discover the highly mutated Omicron coronavirus variant in late-November. In return, international travel bans were imposed on South Africa and neighbouring countries for fear of importing Omicron.

The variant has now been detected in more than 40 countries, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Most of these countries have imposed restrictions on travel to and from South Africa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa recently lambasted countries for imposing "unscientific" travel bans, adding that "northern countries decided to punish the excellence from Africa."

The WHO's director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Sunday that "it remains disappointing that some countries continue to block direct flights from southern Africa due to the Omicron variant."

And while most of this criticism has been levelled at countries in Europe and North America, several African nations have also imposed travel bans on countries in southern Africa. Ramaphosa recently told fellow African countries that imposed bans to stop acting like former colonisers.

African countries with restrictions on travellers from South Africa include Angola, Seychelles, Rwanda, Morocco, Mauritius, and Egypt, according to Flight Centre. The AU wants these countries to drop their bans.

"Current evidence, which underscores global spread and community transmission of the Omicron variant, does not support selective travel bans imposed on Southern African countries," the AU said in a statement on Tuesday.

"These travel and entry bans, which limit the free movement of people and goods, have an immediate and significant negative impact in the region…"

The AU highlighted the adverse economic impact that negatively affects the lives and livelihoods as a result of travel restrictions. It also added that access to essential medical supplies, required to combat a resurgence of Covid-19 infections, would be limited by the travel bans.

Travel restrictions would also lead to "limited capacity for southern African researchers and scientists to access the reagents needed to monitor spread of the Omicron variant and to investigate and characterise its impact on transmissibility, disease severity, and possible evasion from vaccines."

"The African Union further emphasises that penalising member states for ensuring timely and transparent data dissemination in accordance with international health regulations acts as a disincentive for information sharing in the future, potentially posing a threat to health security on the continent and globally," the AU said.

"Accordingly, the African Union calls for the urgent rescinding of selective travel bans imposed on African Union members states."

(Compiled by Luke Daniel)

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