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In the News

South Africa reacts to Covid-19 travel ban

Rachael Bloomer

29th November 2021

The UK’s decision last week to extend its travel ban to six African nations has aroused strong reactions from Africa, not least from South Africa's government.

In a statement, South Africa’s foreign ministry complained that the country was being 'punished' rather than 'applauded' for its ‘excellent science’, with regard to the detection of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) mutation.

Since the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 was ‘of concern’, travel bans have been imposed on South Africa which the country’s foreign ministry has strongly criticised. The UK imposed a travel ban on South Africa and some of South Africa’s neighbouring countries including Namibia and Zimbabwe last week. Direct flights have been banned and hotel quarantine is required of passengers arriving from the six African nations added to the UK’s so-called ‘Red list’, unless the traveller is a UK or Irish national or UK resident.

However, South Africa reacted strongly to these developments, raising concerns about the ban and criticising the lack of plaudits it has gained for discovering the new variant of coronavirus, Omicron. South Africa worked quickly to detect the new variant and their excellence, government officials argue, has not been celebrated.

The African Union told the BBC that they believe that developed nations are to blame for the emergence of the new variant, suggesting it is the result of vaccination ‘hoarding’. This view was echoed by the Labour prime minister Gordon Brown who warned the failure of highly developed economies to get vaccines to the rest of the world is 'coming back to haunt us'.

Currently, only 24% of South Africans are fully vaccinated (with much lower rates in rural areas), compared to 68% of Brits. Globally, less than half of the world’s population had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, as 28th November 2021.

For more on the story, read this BBC article

To find out more about the discrepancy between the proportion of different populations that are fully-vaccinated, go to Our World in Data’s Coronavirus Vaccinations tracker

Read ex-PM Gordon Brown's opinion piece in the Guardian

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