During last night’s address by President Cyril Ramaphosa, he spoke extensively on South Africa’s detection of the latest variant of Covid-19, Omicron, and criticised nations that implemented immediate travel bans against South Africa, with the discovery first being reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by the country’s team of experts.

President Cyril Ramaphosa took to the airwaves last night to address South Africans on the latest developments surrounding the detection of the Omicron variant. 

While many breathed a sigh of relief that more stringent lockdown restrictions were not implemented and that the country will remain on Alert Level 1 of lockdown, with the rising number of infections, the situation will need to be closely monitored and assessed over the coming weeks. Harsher measures will be implemented if needs be. President Ramaphosa also expressed his disappointment at the countries that implemented immediate travel bans.

“We are deeply disappointed by the decision of several countries to prohibit travel from a number of Southern African countries following the identification of the Omicron variant. This 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 Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Maritime Organization 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’,” noted President Ramaphosa.

Some of countries that have implemented bans include Australia, Brazil, Canada, EU member states, Guatemala, Japan, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, Oman, the UAE, UK and USA, among others.

“These restrictions are unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country and our Southern African sister countries,” emphasised President Ramaphosa.

Since his address last night, the UK has confirmed that it will resume flights to South Africa this week.

Vaccines as a solution

To help combat the rising infections and prevent serious illness as a result of Covid-19, President Ramaphosa encouraged all those residing in South Africa to get vaccinated, which is free. 

“By getting vaccinated, we are not only protecting ourselves, but we are also reducing the pressure on our health care system and our health care workers and reducing the risks faced by our healthcare workers. South Africa, like a number of other countries, is looking at booster vaccines for people who are at greatest risk and for whom a booster may be beneficial,” said President Ramaphosa.

A challenge that he noted, however, was the issue of vaccine inequality.

“…we have joined many countries, organisations and people around the world who have been fighting for equal access to vaccines for everyone. We have said that vaccine inequality not only costs lives and livelihoods in those countries that are denied access, but that it also threatens global efforts to overcome the pandemic.

The emergence of the Omicron variant should be a wake-up call to the world that vaccine inequality cannot be allowed to continue.

Until everyone is vaccinated, everyone will be at risk.

Until everyone is vaccinated, we should expect that more variants will emerge,” highlighted President Ramaphosa.

You can watch President Ramaphosa’s full address via EWN below:

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