Ramaphosa hails Nigeria’s solidarity following COVID-19 travel bans

FILE PHOTO: President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation following a special cabinet meeting on matters relating to the coronavirus epidemic at the Union Building on March 15, 2020 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Felix Dlangamandla/Beeld/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his gratitude to his Nigerian counterpart Muhammadu Buhari for the solidarity shown in the face of the travel bans imposed on South Africa following the emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

Ramaphosa, who is on a four-nation visit to Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal, said such actions sent strong messages of unity within the continent.

FILE PHOTO: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. /Getty Images

“It says that as African countries, we are standing united against the imposition of arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions that are not only unscientific but counter-productive in the long run,” Ramaphosa said during a joint press conference with Buhari on Wednesday.

He added that the leaders of the other three West African nations were unhappy with the travels bans imposed on South Africa and several other countries in the southern region.

Ramaphosa called for cooperation, rather than discrimination, from Western nations to boost efforts to tackle the new variant which is believed to be more infectious than previous variants.

“This is a global pandemic, and overcoming it requires that we collaborate and work together as a collective.”

Last week, South African scientists announced the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant with a large number of mutations compared to previous variants and reported it to the World Health Organization (WHO), which subsequently named it omicron.

Following that announcement, a number of Western nations imposed travel restrictions on several nations in southern Africa to contain importation of the virus. The variant has since been detected in several European nations, some of which are grappling with record numbers of infections.

Ramaphosa, again, reiterated that his country was being unfairly punished for detecting the variant quicker.

South Africa has some of the world’s top epidemiologists and scientists, who have managed to detect emerging coronavirus variants and their mutations early on in their life cycle.

“Excellent science should be applauded and not punished.”

“Whilst we respect the right of all countries to take the necessary precautionary measures to protect their citizens, we need to remember that this pandemic requires collaboration and sharing of expertise.”

According to Ramaphosa, his government’s primary concern at the moment is the havoc the measures are wreaking on families, the travel and tourism industries and business.

“It is our hope that the countries that have imposed these bans urgently reconsider their decisions.”

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)