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South Africa ‘punished’ for detecting Omicron Covid variant

By AFP
27 November 2021   |   1:06 pm
South Africa complained Saturday that it is being "punished" for detecting a new Covid-19 variant Omicron which the World Health Organization has termed a "variant of concern"

A lab at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine in Durban. South African scientists alerted global health authorities on Thursday to a new variant.Credit…Joao Silva/The New York Times

South Africa complained Saturday that it is being “punished” for detecting a new Covid-19 variant Omicron which the World Health Organization has termed a “variant of concern” and is more transmissible than the dominant Delta strain.

The decision by a number of countries around the world to ban flights from southern Africa following the discovery of the variant “is akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker,” the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.

Israel and Belgium announced after South Africa that they also had detected cases of Omicron.

Government insisted that South Africa’s “capacity to test and its ramped-up vaccination programme, backed up by a world-class scientific community should give our global partners the comfort that we are doing as well as they are in managing the pandemic”.

With more than 2.95 million cases and 89,783 deaths, South Africa is the worst-hit country in Africa by the pandemic.