South Africa should be thanked for detecting new Covid-19 variant: WHO boss
The chief of the World Health Organization said on Monday that South Africa and Botswana should be thanked for detecting, sequencing and reporting the new Covid-19 variant, not penalized.
The emergence of the new Omicron coronavirus variant amid vaccine inequity and the rapid imposition of travel bans on southern African nations “demonstrates just why the world needs a new accord on pandemics,” said WHO boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at a special session of the World Health Assembly.
edros told delegates that the current system “disincentivizes countries from alerting others to threats that will inevitably land on their shores” and that “South Africa and Botswana should be thanked for detecting, sequencing and reporting this variant — not penalized.”
The Omicron variant was first detected in southern Africa, but has since been identified in multiple countries around the world including several European nations.
Many have slapped travel bans on southern African countries, which some scientists say will prove ineffectual at slowing the spread of the variant and unfairly punishes the countries that were quick to report cases of the new variant.
The WHO has said that travel restrictions “may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of COVID-19 but place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.”
Speaking on Sunday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said that travel bans enforced by the EU, U.K. and U.S., among others, were “completely unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country and our southern African sister countries.”