Sunday, May 28

Omnicron COVID variant: restrictions in South Africa ‘kind of travel apartheid’, says UN chief

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has criticized the restrictions targeting southern African nations as a form of racist travel segregation.

European nations are among the countries that have imposed travel restrictions after detection of the COVID Omnicron variant.

“We have the tools to travel safely,” Guterres said after speaking with the president of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat.

“Let’s use those tools to avoid this kind of … of, let me say, traveling to apartheid, which I think is unacceptable.”

Apartheid was a brutal system of institutionalized racial segregation that existed in South Africa in which blacks and people from other racial groups did not have the same political and economic rights as whites and were forced to live separately from whites.

The travel restrictions target multiple countries after health experts tracking infections in the region first identified the Omnicron variant.

“What is unacceptable is to have a part of the world, which is one of the most vulnerable parts of the world economy, condemned to a lockout when it was they who revealed the existence of a new variant that, incidentally, already existed in other parts of the world. world, including Europe, as we know. So there is a very strong appeal that I launch, to appeal to common sense, “Guterres said.

The UN chief warned that the wave of travel restrictions risks jeopardizing Africa’s economic recovery and will not really stop the spread of the virus around the world.

Holland finds previous cases of the Omnicron variant

Earlier this week, the Netherlands institute of public health reported two local cases of the Omicron COVID-19 variant dating from November 19 and 23.

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The cases predate those found in passengers who arrived in Amsterdam from South Africa on November 26.

Many other European countries, including Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy and Belgium, have announced that they have detected cases of the new strain of coronavirus.

On Monday afternoon, a Madrid hospital announced a case of Omicron in a 51-year-old man who had returned to Spain from South Africa on Sunday and presented mild symptoms.

Portugal previously said that it had detected its first cases of the Omicron variant associated with players from the Belenenses SAD football club.

The country’s public health agency said preliminary tests suggested that the 13 cases associated with players are related to Omicron. One of the players had traveled to South Africa, where the variant was first detected.

At a press conference on Sunday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said a “race against time” was underway to address the Omicron variant.

WHO on the level of risk of Omicron

The World Health Organization said the Omicron variant had a large number of mutations, some of them concerning and pointing to “potential for immune escape and increased transmissibility.”

That means it’s unclear if current COVID-19 vaccines will work against you and if the variant has the potential to spread faster.

Experts in South Africa said the variant was likely behind a “rapid increase in cases” in the last two weeks in the country, but that it was too early to tell if the variant was more severe.

The WHO urged countries to “ensure that mitigation plans are in place to maintain essential health services” in the event of a possible sudden increase in hospitalizations.

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The first case of Omicron was detected in South Africa on November 9. South African Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla condemned the recent travel bans as “counterproductive” as many countries have already reported cases.

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