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Johannesburg: South Africa’s top health federation on Sunday slammed the 18 nations which have imposed travel bans on the country on fears of the new potentially highly-transmissible variant of Covid-19, Omicron, saying the world must avoid such “knee-jerk reaction” if it wants “transparency” in the sharing of critical medical data.

The new Covid-19 variant B.1.1.529, first detected in South Africa, was on Friday designated as a “Variant of Concern” by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which named it “Omicron”.

The decision by 18 countries to ban flights to and from South Africa was premature, as there is still not enough information on how dangerous the variant might be, Angelique Coetzee, Chairman of South African Medical Association (SAMA) said. Coetzee also defended the decision to announce the findings, pointing out that South Africa should be lauded and not vilified for this. 

“My suspicion is that because our scientists are very alert and doing a lot of sequencing in the background, maybe those European countries missed it because of the symptoms,” Coetzee told the TV news channel Newzroom Afrika. 

The UK announced on Thursday that all flights to and from South Africa and five neighbouring countries would be banned from Friday following an announcement that the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 had been detected in South Africa. Many other European countries followed suit, most of them indicating that only their own citizens would be allowed back, subject to a quarantine period. Many other countries have now started to severely regulate or ban flights completely from the African nation. 




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