Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Expert slams Africa travel ban over Omicron

An African Union vaccine expert has slammed western countries in a scathing TV interview, criticising the West for banning Africa over the new Omicron variant and calling for a co-ordinated global shutdown.

It comes as Dutch health authorities said they had discovered at least 13 cases of the new strain among passengers on two flights from South Africa and Australia recorded its first two cases.

Dr Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija of the Africa Union’s African Vaccine Delivery Alliance appeared on the BBC on Sunday, claiming the world should have been prepared for a new Covid-19 crisis, calling it “inevitable”.

“Had the first SARS-Covid virus — the one that was first identified in China last year — originated in Africa it is now clear that the world would have locked us away and thrown away the key,” she scathed.

“There would have been no urgency to develop vaccines for it, we would have been expendable, Africa would have become known as the continent of Covid.

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

She criticised countries for immediately introducing travel bans to numerous southern African regions and pleaded to vaccinate Africans urgently.

On Sunday Israel shut its doors to all foreign tourists, the first country to do so due to concerns about the new Covid-19 variant Omicron. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia also halted flights from more African countries including Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar and Angola. On Friday it suspended flights to and from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini.

In Australia, under federal measures, travellers entering the country from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi, and the Seychelles in the last 14 days have been ordered into hotel quarantine.

“Quite frankly, it is unacceptable, these travel bans are based on politics and not in science, it is wrong.

“Why are the Africans unvaccinated? It’s an outrage,” Olatunbosun-Alakija said.

“We knew we were going to get here. We knew this was a crossroads it was going to bring us to. It was going to bring us to a variant, it was going to bring us to more dangerous variants. “Why are we acting surprised? We are we locking away Africa when this virus is already on three continents?”

“Nobody is locking away Belgium and Israel. Why are we locking away Africa?

“It is wrong and it also time our African leaders stand up and they find their voice. African leadership needs to sit up at this moment, our President needs to wake up at this moment and realise that this is not business as usual.

“The continent is at stake, our lives are at stake and we cannot allow the world to do this to us.”

Olatunbosun-Alakija recommended a “co-ordinated global shutdown of travel for the next month” but she pleaded, “don’t single out Africa”.

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