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UN condemns travel apartheid on Southern Africa

THE United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) have condemned travel restrictions imposed on Southern African countries by some nations, mainly from the West, after a new variant of the Covid-19 was detected in South Africa.

The UN said the travel bans are “unfair, punitive, ineffective and smack of apartheid”.

This follows last week’s knee-jerk reaction by some Western countries to impose travel bans on a group of SADC states following an outbreak of a new Covid-19 variant known as Omicron.

Already, SADC has condemned the travel restrictions describing them as punitive.

On Wednesday, while addressing the Politburo, President Mnangagwa also condemned the travel bans saying the global community should be guided by science as the basis of decisions.

Travel restrictions have been imposed by Western countries that include Britain and the European Union (EU) on Southern African countries which include South Africa, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia following the discovery of the Omicron variant by South African scientists.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres yesterday said that travel restrictions imposed over Covid-19 should be removed.

Mr Guterres said the only way to reduce the risk of transmission while allowing for travel and economic engagement was to repeatedly test travellers, “together with other appropriate and truly effective measures”.

“We have the instruments to have safe travel. Let’s use those instruments to avoid this kind, of allow me to say, travel apartheid, which I think is unacceptable,” Mr Guterres said.

He appealed to the more than 50 governments that have imposed travel restrictions on visitors from Southern Africa, to lift the bans.

“This is a very strong appeal that I launch, an appeal to common sense,” he said.

Mr Guterres has long warned about the dangers of vaccine inequality around the world and that low immunisation rates are “a breeding ground for variants”.

On his part, African Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat, who attended the press briefing with the UN chief also condemned the travel bans.

WHO said that blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread of the variant and could hurt the global Covid-19 response because it will discourage countries from reporting new variants.

WHO urges all travellers to adhere to mitigation measures, including getting vaccinated, washing hands, and wearing masks.

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