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South Africa on Monday insisted that it was ‘regrettable… (and) sad’ that fellow African nations had joined a rush by wealthy countries to impose travel bans over the new Covid variant – Omicron.
Speaking to newsmen on Monday, foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela said, ‘It is quite regrettable, very unfortunate, and I will even say sad, to be talking about travel restrictions imposed by a fellow African country’.
Africa Today News, New York gathered that Angola, Mauritius, Rwanda and the Seychelles have suspended flights from South Africa in a bid to shield themselves from Omicron.
‘What I don’t understand is that some of these African countries that are doing this, know the struggles (that) as a continent we have, where European countries will take this decision and impose travel bans,‘ Monyela lamented.
He said South Africa had recently made ‘substantial donations’ of vaccines to some of the countries that were now imposing flight bans.
‘When a fellow African country does that, especially in the context where most of these countries are beneficiaries… it doesn’t make sense,‘ he told an online news conference organised by the health ministry.
Monyela said his ministry was urging countries on the continent and further afield that have hurried to impose travel restrictions to reverse them ‘immediately.’
Dozens of nations from Europe to Asia have imposed travel restrictions on South Africa and its neighbours since its scientists flagged Omicron last Thursday.
Mauritius and Rwanda were the latest African countries to suspend flights.
Rwanda announced late Sunday that it was halting direct flights to and from nine countries in southern Africa.
All passengers who landed from those countries in the past seven days now have to spend a week in quarantine in designated hotels — at their own cost.
An outraged South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday called on countries to ‘immediately and urgently’ reverse the travel curbs, which he said were scientifically ‘unjustified.’
Health Minister Joe Phaahla said many South Africans had felt the country had hastened to go public with the discovery of the new Omicron variant and that had it ‘kept quiet, travel bans would not have happened’.
‘But that would have been detrimental because our approach is for our citizens to not live in false security and false safety,’ said Phaahla.
The travel restrictions have dealt a new blow to South Africa’s tourism industry, which had hoped the southern hemisphere summer would bring an influx of visitors from the well-heeled north.
AFRICA TODAY NEWS, NEW YORK