Travel bans punishment for advanced COVID-19 variant detection, South Africa says

Promit Mukherjee | Reuters|

Travellers walk near an electronic flight notice board displaying cancelled flights at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Nov. 27, 2021, after several countries banned flights from South Africa following the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant Omicron.PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP/Getty Images

South Africa said on Saturday it was being punished for its advanced ability to detect new COVID-19 variants early, as travel bans and restrictions imposed because of the new Omicron variant threaten to harm tourism and other sectors of the economy.

South Africa has some of the world’s top epidemiologists and scientists, who have managed to detect emerging coronavirus variants and their mutations early on in their life cycle. The Omicron variant was first discovered in South Africa and has since been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.

“This latest round of travel bans is akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker,” the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation said.

“Excellent science should be applauded and not punished,” it said in a statement.

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