Blaming Africa for Omicron shows persistent racism in US: Expert

2021-12-02 09:51:42
Blaming Africa for Omicron shows persistent racism in US: Expert

The "blaming and shaming" of African nations for the Omicron variant of the coronavirus once again underscores the persistent racism against Black people in the United States, an African American physician and health advocate says.

Speaking on Wednesday at a Reuters Next panel on racial disparities in Black maternal healthcare, Dr. Joia Crear-Perry said the medical profession in the US needed to stop resorting to racist tropes and start truth-telling.

Crear-Perry, has studied and identified racism as a root cause of health inequities in the US. Her most notable efforts include the removal of race as a risk factor for illnesses, including premature birth.

"Even if you look at the latest blaming and shaming that's happening around the latest Omicron variant you see the same history, the same racist trope of blaming certain places, assuming white nations and nations that have majority-white populations are going to need to be protected from places who are not," she said.

"That's the same legacy and history that shows up in health and same legacy and history that we have to have truth-telling around in order for us to stop that behavior of blaming and shaming and harming people."

Much remains unknown about the new variant, including where it originated and how contagious it might be.

More than 50 countries have reportedly implemented travel measures to guard against Omicron, many of them banning travelers from southern African countries.

In guidance issued this week as reports of the Omicron variant spread, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.

A health agency in the Netherlands said Tuesday that the Omicron coronavirus variant was already in Europe a week before South Africa reported the new variant to the WHO.

The Netherlands’ RIVM health institute found Omicron in samples dating from Nov. 19 and 23. The WHO said South Africa first reported the variant to the U.N. health agency on Nov. 24.

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