South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday said he is "concerned" over some southern African countries imposing travel bans amid the discovery of the new coronavirus variant Omicron.
“I am concerned and of course out of respect to them, I mean they have their reasons," he said. "But we would like to have a discussion with them in a way where we would prefer that they do not react like our former colonisers, who are very quick to close Africa down," he added.
This comes after Rwanda, Seychelles, Mauritius, Egypt and Angola have closed their borders soon after the discovery of the new variant following several western countries.
Earlier on Sunday, Ramaphosa had asked the countries to “urgently” reverse “scientifically unjustified” travel restrictions.
“We call upon all those countries that have imposed travel bans on our country and our southern African sister countries to immediately and urgently reverse their decisions,” Ramaphosa had said, in his first address to the nation since the detection of Omicron. “The prohibition of travel is not informed by science,” he added.
Meanwhile, while countries were "punishing" South Africa for detecting the new Omicron variant by issuing travel bans, European countries like Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands already had the super mutant strain, claim reports.
South African health officials had alerted the world on November 24 about the existence of the new variant B.1.1.529, with 32 mutations. Two days later the World Health Organisation (WHO) assigned the Greek alphabet Omicron to the variant and said the new strain may pose a higher risk of reinfection than past mutations of the virus.
Genome sequencing and other genetic analysis showed that the B.1.1.529 variant was responsible for all 77 of the virus samples analysed from Gauteng in South Africa, collected between November 12 and 20.
However, sample tests in Belgium and Germany now confirm that the variant was present in their countries before November 24, CBS news reported.