South Africa to remain on lowest lockdown level amid Omicron concerns

Commenting on the travel ban, Ramaphosa called for an immediate reversal of the ban.
A woman carries a child in Pretoria, South Africa. Scientists in South Africa, where omicron was first identified, are scrambling to combat its spread.(AP)
A woman carries a child in Pretoria, South Africa. Scientists in South Africa, where omicron was first identified, are scrambling to combat its spread.(AP)
Published on Nov 29, 2021 03:56 AM IST
Copy Link
PTI | , Johannesburg

South Africa will remain on the lowest 'Level One' of its five-level lockdown strategy to fight the Covid-19 pandemic despite the global panic around the detection of the Omicron variant in the country, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday.

Ramaphosa also called on more than 20 countries that have imposed travel bans to and from South Africa and its neighbours to immediately end the ban to avoid further harm to the economies of these countries, which have already been battered by the pandemic.

“In taking the decision not to impose further restrictions at this stage, we considered the fact that when we encountered previous waves of infection, vaccines were not widely available and far fewer people were vaccinated,” Ramaphosa said in a national broadcast.

“That is no longer the case. Vaccines are available to anyone aged 12 and above, free of charge, at thousands of sites across the country.

“We also know that the coronavirus will be with us for the long term. We must therefore find ways of managing the pandemic while limiting disruptions to the economy and ensuring continuity,” the president added.

Commenting on the travel ban, Ramaphosa called for an immediate reversal of the ban.

“(The ban) is a clear and completely unjustified departure from the commitment that many of these countries made at the meeting of G20 countries in Rome last month.”

“They pledged at that meeting to restart international travel in a safe and orderly manner, consistent with the work of relevant international organisations such as the World Health Organisation, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the International Maritime Organisation and the OECD.

“The G20 Rome Declaration noted the plight of the tourism sector in developing countries, and made a commitment to support a rapid, resilient, inclusive and sustainable recovery of the tourism sector,” Ramaphosa said.

“These restrictions are unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country and our Southern African sister countries. The prohibition of travel is not informed by science, nor will it be effective in preventing the spread of this variant. The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is to further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic.”

Ramaphosa said there was no scientific justification for keeping these restrictions in place.

Placing great emphasis on the need to use vaccination as the primary defence tool in fighting the virus, Ramaphosa said a task team led by Deputy President David Mabuza has been established to report back on suggestions that vaccines be made compulsory in some circumstances.

“As individuals, as companies and as government, we have a responsibility to ensure that all people in this country can work, travel and socialise safely.

“We have therefore been undertaking engagements with social partners and other stakeholders on introducing measures that make vaccination a condition for access to workplaces, public events, public transport and public establishments, “the president said.

Ramaphosa said discussion has already been taking place with the business and labour sectors, with broad agreement on the need for compulsory vaccination.

He did not comment about the growing anti-vaccination proponents, including some political parties, and even some lawyers who have argued that forcing people to take vaccinations would undermine their constitutional rights.

“We realise that the introduction of such measures is a difficult and complex issue, but if we do not address this seriously and as a matter of urgency, we will continue to be vulnerable to new variants and will continue to suffer new waves of infection,” Ramaphosa said.

“We also know that the likelihood of the emergence of more severe forms of variants is increased significantly where people are not vaccinated. The emergence of the Omicron variant should be a wake-up call to the world that vaccine inequality cannot be allowed to continue,” the president said as he repeated his call for vaccine inequality to end.

“These variants may well be more transmissible, may cause more severe disease, and maybe more resistant to the current vaccines.

“Instead of prohibiting travel, the rich countries of the world need to support the efforts of developing economies to access and to manufacture enough vaccine doses for their people without delay,” Ramaphosa concluded.

South Africa recorded 3,220 coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, up from about 100 daily just over a week ago, but scientists said there was no need to panic about Omnicron yet because not enough was known about it.

The Omicron variant, feared to spread faster and partially reduce vaccine protection, was identified in South Africa earlier this week and classed as a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

A “variant of concern” is the WHO's top category of worrying Covid-19 variants.

Countries around the world are currently racing to introduce travel bans and restrictions on southern African countries in an effort to contain Omicron's spread.

European countries along with the UK have banned travel to and from South Africa and neighbouring countries of Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, as well as Lesotho and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), both of which are landlocked within South Africa.

Other countries include Mauritius, Israel, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the US, Canada and the Netherlands.

In New Delhi, the Indian government asked all states and union territories to conduct rigorous screening and testing of all international travellers coming from or transiting through South Africa, Hong Kong and Botswana, where the new variant has been detected. 

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Cargo boat sinks in Indonesia, 25 people go missing (AP)

    Cargo boat sinks in Indonesia, 25 people go missing

    Rescuers in Indonesia were searching for 25 people who were missing after a cargo boat sank in the Makassar Strait in South Sulawesi province, officials said Sunday. Like many Indonesians, Djunaidi, the head of the provincial search and rescue agency goes by only one name. Also read: US intel helped Ukraine locate and sink Russian warship: Report Seventeen people were later rescued, including some by two tugboats that were at sea at the time of the incident.

  • This photograph taken on May 28, 2022, shows the damaged building of the Faculty of Economics of Karazin National University in Kharkiv, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

    Will Moscow use 'tactical nuclear weapons' in Ukraine? Russian envoy's reply

    Ever since the Kremlin invaded Ukraine, there have been fears that Russian president Vladimir Putin may resort to using nuclear weapons in the war-torn country. In April, US' Central Intelligence Agency director William Burns had also warned that Russia's setbacks in its invasion of Ukraine could lead Putin to resort to using a "tactical or low-yield nuclear weapon". The ongoing war in Ukraine is now in its fourth month.

  • People queue to be tested for the Covid-19 coronavirus at a swab collection site in Beijing on Sunday.

    N. Korea says ‘situation improved’; Shanghai eases rules: Global Covid updates

    Shanghai announced on Sunday further steps towards return to normal life and lifting a two-month Covid lockdown this week, while Beijing reopened parts of its public transport, some malls, gyms and other venues as infections stabilised. Meanwhile in North Korea, officials observed that “the situation is improving” in the country, hinting at a softening of its “stringent” curbs. Here are top 8 updates on Global Covid-19 situation 1.

  • Photo for representational purpose only.

    Nepali Army begins search operations for missing Tara Air plane: Report

    What we know The aircraft bearing call-sign 9 NAET had flown from Pokhara to Jomsom at 9:55 AM and went out of contact after reaching the Lete area of Mustang. As per the State TV, the missing aircraft was hosting 4 Indians among others. As per the police officials, the aircraft has been suspected to have crashed in the "Titi" area of Lete in Mustang District.

  • A plane skidded off the runway in Ramechhap district of Nepal. (File photo) 

    Nepal plane missing: Tara Air plane crashed on same route in 2016| What we know

    In 2016, a Tara Air plane was traveling from Pokhara to Jomsom in Nepal when it lost contact. On Sunday morning, another Tara Air flight - which had 22 people aboard, including four Indians - went missing. Jomsom is a popular trekking destination in the Himalayas, about 20 minutes from P Here's what we know so far: 1. The plane took off from the western town of Pokhara at around 9:55 am local time.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Sunday, May 29, 2022