JOHANNESBURG – President Cyril Ramaphosa in his address to the nation on Sunday said South Africa would remain on alert level 1.
The address comes after Ramaphosa had meetings with the National Coronavirus Command Council, the President’s Co-ordinating Council and Cabinet.
READ: New COVID variant: NCCC to present scientific evidence to Ramaphosa
Earlier this week scientists identified a new variant of the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease.
The World Health Organization named it Omicron and declared it a ‘variant of concern’.
The Omicron variant was first described in Botswana and subsequently in South Africa, and scientists have also identified cases in countries such as Hong Kong, Australia, Belgium, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Denmark and Israel.
Several countries including the UK and Thailand have imposed a travel ban on South Africa after the discovery of Omicron variant.
READ MORE: Tourism sector shifts focus as COVID travel bans hit South Africa
"These restrictions are unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country and our Southern African sister countries.
The prohibition of travel is not informed by science, nor will it be effective in preventing the spread of this variant, said Ramaphosa".
The President said what the prohibition on travel will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic.
"We call upon all those countries that have imposed travel bans on our country and our Southern African sister countries to urgently reverse their decisions and lift the ban they have imposed before any further damage is done to our economies and to the livelihoods of our people" he said.
The Director of the SAMRC Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit, University of the Witwatersrand Shabir A. Madhi had said that there is no point in having travel bans as the virus will disseminate irrespective of this.
"It’s naive to believe that imposing travel bans on a handful of countries will stop the import of a variant. This virus will disperse across the globe unless you are an island nation that shuts off the rest of the world.
The absence of reporting of the variants from countries that have limited sequencing capacity does not infer absence of the variant. Furthermore, unless travel bans are imposed on all other nations that still allow travel with the “red-listed” countries, the variant will directly or indirectly still end up in countries imposing selective travel bans, albeit perhaps delaying it slightly".
He further said that by the time the ban has been imposed the variant would have likely already spread.
"This is already evident from cases of Omicron being reported from Belgium in a person with no links to contact with someone from Southern Africa, as well as cases in Israel, UK and Germany".
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My Fellow South Africans,
Earlier this week, our scientists identified a new variant of the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease. The World Health Organization has named it #Omicron and has declared it a variant of concern.https://t.co/EpfT06jNe1
Cyril Ramaphosa (@CyrilRamaphosa) November 28, 2021