South Africa’s foreign ministry has  complained that it is being punished instead of applauded for discovering Omicron, a concerning new variant of Covid-19.

The statement was made as countries around the world restricted travel from southern Africa as details of the spread emerged.

“Excellent science should be applauded and not punished,” it said.

The bans were “akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker”.

The statement added that the reaction had been completely different when new variants were discovered elsewhere in the world.

An African Union official told the BBC developed countries were to blame for the emergence of the variant.

“What is going on right now is inevitable, it’s a result of the world’s failure to vaccinate in an equitable, urgent and speedy manner. 

“It is as a result of hoarding [of vaccines] by high-income countries of the world, and quite frankly it is unacceptable,” said AU vaccine delivery alliance co-chair Ayoade Alakija.

“These travel bans are based in politics, and not in science. It is wrong… Why are we locking away Africa when this virus is already on three continents?”

On Friday and Saturday, a number of countries announced new measures:

The WHO said the number of cases of this variant, initially named B.1.1.529, appeared to be increasing in almost all of South Africa’s provinces

“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” the UN public health body said in a statement on Friday.

It said “the first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November”.

The WHO said it would take a few weeks to understand the impact of the new variant, as scientists worked to determine how transmissible it was.

(BBC)

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