What you need to know:
- It has emerged that the Omicron variant existed in many corners of the globe before South African scientists identified it
African Union Commission boss Moussa Faki Mahamat says the world owes Africa a responsibility to lift travel restrictions imposed on the continent for discovering a new variant of Covid-19.
At a conference between the AU and the United Nations on Wednesday, Mr Faki said there was no “common sense” or scientific reasoning behind the travel bans, especially since it has emerged that the Omicron variant existed in many corners of the globe before South African scientists identified it.
“We have told UN agencies that there is no scientific basis for these travel bans…This variant was circulating in Europe before it was identified in South Africa,” Faki told an audience in New York at a forum.
“We condemn and challenge the travel measures that have neither basis in science nor common sense. To condemn a country because its scientists alerted the world of the prevalence of a new variant is immoral. In the face of a common enemy, the life of a human being should be the same.”
South African scientists announced last week that they had discovered the variant, which is thought to be more infectious and has various mutations from the original form.
And although South Africa itself had recorded an increase in infection rates, there has been proof that Omicron already existed in different places, including Germany, in communities that had no travel history to South Africa.
Most of the countries have, however, imposed a blockade on travel from southern Africa, causing anger on the continent.
Last week, the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said the history of the pandemic had shown lockdowns work less effectively compared with physical distancing, mask wearing, sanitisation and vaccination. It didn’t stop the US, Germany, UK, and Canada from restricting travel from South Africa.
On Wednesday, Bangladesh caused more furore after restricting travellers from the entire African continent ostensibly to keep at bay the new variant.
The New Age newspaper, citing the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abdul Momen, said the country had instructed its missions in Africa to restrict giving travel papers to travellers from the continent. Those who arrive from the continent will be forced into a 14-day quarantine at their own cost.
“Any incoming people from Africa would have to stay in institutional quarantine managed by the government for 14 days on self-payment,” the paper reported. Bangladesh has embassies in Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Mauritius, Morocco, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.
There were reports the government in Bangladesh had imposed tougher restrictions, including planting red flags on the roofs of apartments where those arriving from Africa are staying and to ensure they don’t leave the compound until the quarantine period is over.
The country, though, was gearing ahead with a ‘peace conference’ due in the capital Dhaka on Saturday and had invited prominent personalities like the Indian Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, former Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa, as well as former British prime minister Gordon Brown.