Omicron travel bans disrespectful – Thieme

• By Business Reporter

THE Ohlthaver& List (O&L) Group has strongly condemned the imposed travel bans by the United Kingdom (UK); European Union (EU), and the United States (US) against southern African countries, including Namibia.

The imposed travel bans are as a result of the new coronavirus variant, Omicron – classified as a “variant of concern” -, detected in South Africa earlier this month and then reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) last Wednesday.

In a statement this week, O&L executive chairman, Sven Thieme, expressed his dismay saying it was “utterly disrespectful, deceitful, and discriminatory of our intellectual capacity as well as undermining the skill and excellence of a world-class science community”.

“Instead of being recognised and commended, South Africa (and its neighbours including Namibia), are punished for being transparent,” he decried.

This week, Japan became the latest country to reinstate tough border restrictions, banning all foreigners from entering the country from 30 November.

Thieme further said that this action will indefinitely result in the complete crippling of economies of the affected countries.

“We are talking about a combined population of more than 300 million (southern Africa) lives at stake and the rest of the world slams the door on us without any consultation despite all the commitments we have shown over time. This is criminal! And those countries responsible for this should be held liable for their action!” Thieme lambasted.

“Can you imagine the repercussions of border closures and travel bans every time a new variant is identified/detected? We need to remain open and stay focused by trusting science and attaining the facts before we act impulsively.”

He went on to say: “We are all in this pandemic together that requires of us to support each other and not work or discriminate against each other. Right now, our best weapon of defence against this dreadful virus is to be fully vaccinated and follow the basic rules of wearing a mask; regularly washing and sanitising hands; avoiding large gatherings and trusting the scientific approach.

“As a country, we owe it to ourselves, our children and the generations to come to stand together in solidarity (with government and all other role-players) to fight this virus with all our might and power so that we rise from the ashes of Covid-19, stronger than ever before.”

The Omicron coronavirus variant that emerged in southern Africa has sparked global alarm owing to its unprecedented set of genetic mutations.

Its 50 mutations include more than 30 on the spike protein, the exposed part of the virus that binds with human cells. These could make it more transmissible than the dominant Delta variant and more likely to evade the immune protection conferred by Covid-19 vaccines or previous infection.