The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) has decried the recent imposition of travel bans on southern African countries after discovery of the Omicron variant, terming it unhelpful in curtailing the spread of COVID-19.

There is feeling of betrayal, especially in South Africa, where the hard graft of scientists in unearthing and transparently announcing to the world the discovery of the Omicron variant has been met with harsh reactions rather than applause.

“The unscientific, poorly targeted, knee-jerk reactions that have not helped much in containing the SARS CoV-2 virus since March 2020 seem to be the preferred response to scientific challenges of our time. Restricting travel has never been the solution to curtailing the spread of COVID. On the contrary, such restrictions have adversely impacted economies and unleash untold hardship,” a section of a statement by AFRAA read.

It’s not just AFRAA that has questioned the relevance of travel bans. According to John Nkengasong, the Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the history of the pandemic had indicated travel bans served little purpose in managing the spread of the virus.

Instead, Africa CDC, in a statement issued on November 27th, encouraged more surveillance and data sharing between countries, in addition to increased vaccination of the “high-risk” populations.

AFRAA is doubling down on that advisory, saying that besides vaccination, there are tried and tested protocols that have proven effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19 and that they must continue to apply while everyone works together towards neutralizing or eliminating the virus.

“The Omicron variant is now detected in several regions of the world, yet the travel bans seem to be targeted at Africa. This is an affront to the global efforts to find an enduring solution. We will be better off confronting the virus if we work together for solutions and avoid discrimination,” AFRAA Secretary General, Mr. Abdérahmane Berthé said.

“Why target Africa when the virus is reported in other regions as well? Any attempts to stigmatize Africa through travel bans will not work. We should not confuse politics with science,” – Mr. Berthé.

AFRAA is calling on all countries that have issued unilateral travel restrictions to immediately revoke them and instead seek collaborative measures that will address the COVID challenge holistically.

It is also urging African governments to speak out at any attempts to smear the continent with propaganda and medical mischief.

“They must remind the world that we can only defeat COVID together not divided.”

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