Omicron COVID-19 travel ban on African countries unacceptable, says Akufo-Addo

President Akufo-Addo said all attempts by the developed world to single out African countries for travel bans over the COVID-19 Omicron variant must stop

President Akufo-Addo says recent travel bans imposed on multiple African Countries following the discovery of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 by South African scientists is unacceptable and regrettable.

The President’s comments follow the decision by the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK) and European Union (EU) to bar entry to travellers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Egypt, Mozambique, Malawi and Nigeria, following the discovery of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in South Africa.

Addressing a joint press conference with the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa as part of his three-day visit to Ghana on 4 December 2021, President Akufo-Addo said all attempts by the developed world to single out African countries for travel bans must stop.

“We repeated our firm opposition to all attempts to single out African countries for the imposition of travel bans, as instruments of immigration control, when we are told, for example, that the omicron variant of COVID-19, which was recently sequenced and reported by South African scientists, was discovered much earlier in the Netherlands” President Akufo-Addo said.

“I reiterated Ghana’s unflinching support to South Africa and, indeed, to all other African countries, in the common search for an end to the pandemic” Akufo-Addo added.

President Cyril Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his address to the press, noted that his country has certainly been targeted unfairly by the western world after South African scientists discovered the new COVID-19 variant.

He intimated that the ban as described by the United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, as “Travel Apartheid”, is his position as well and same ought to be reviewed immediately by the West.   

“It was African Scientific expertise particularly in genomic sequencing that brought it to the world’s attention”.

“These arbitrary travel restrictions are already causing substantial damage to the national economies in the country in our region (SADC), particularly those countries that are most reliant on tourism,” President Ramaphosa said.

“Our presence here in Ghana is an affirmation that as African countries, we reject those countries that have been singled out and that have been isolated in their efforts to try and fight the pandemic”.

“We are standing together as a united front as we have than from the onset of this pandemic” he added 

Threats on the continent

President Akufo-Addo in his address observed that the African continent is bedevilled by multiple security threats that are negatively affecting the growth and development of the continent. He noted that “with the continent confronted by multiple threats to the territorial integrity of some of its states, and many of its civilian populations being put under serious threat, President Ramaphosa and I both agreed that now is not the time for the Security Council to reduce its peacekeeping mandates on the continent.”

President Akufo-Addo applauded President Ramaphosa for the efforts he is making to consolidate the peace in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), with the ongoing SADC mission to crush the violent insurgency in Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado, in which South African troops are playing a leading role.

“We, in ECOWAS, have much to learn from this, in our own fight against the terrorist threat in the Sahel. President Ramaphosa expressed great interest in this fight, and pledged the support of SADC to ECOWAS within the context of the AU,” he said.

Such co-operation, he added, between regional bodies is important for ridding the continent of all the anti-democratic elements who have surfaced, and are seeking to destabilise and threaten the peace and security of Africa, and compromise the efforts at realising “The Africa We Want”, as enshrined in AU Agenda 2063.

Wilberforce Asare

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