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Malawi blasts ‘Afrophobic’ virus travel bans

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Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera on Sunday accused Western countries of “Afrophobia” for shutting their borders to his and other neighbouring nations after South Africa flagged a new coronavirus variant last week.

Dozens of countries have barred flights from southern Africa in a bid to keep the variant, named Omicron, off their shores.

MALAWI PRESIDENT OUTRAGE AT TRAVEL BANS 

Chakwera is currently chairing the 16-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) which has seen most of its members blacklisted, sparking outrage.

“We are all concerned about the new Covid variant and owe South Africa’s scientists our thanks for identifying it before anyone else did,” Chakwera posted on his Facebook page.

TRAVEL BANS ON AFRICA 

“But the unilateral travel bans now imposed on SADC countries by the UK, EU, US, Australia, and others are uncalled for. Covid measures must be based on science, not Afrophobia,” he said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated Omicron a variant of concern and is assessing its impact.

SOUTH AFRICA ‘PUNISHED’ WITH TRAVEL BANS 

Omicron is thought to be behind rising infections in South Africa, the continent’s worst-hit country.

Several governments deem the travel bans rushed and unjust, and South Africa said it felt “punished” for sounding the alarm. 

The WHO has called for borders to remain open.

READ: SA travel: Ramaphosa demands countries lift ‘unscientific’ travel bans

NOT TO ‘GEO-POLITICISE’ VIRUS 

“We must work in solidarity,” Botswana’s International Affairs Minister Lemogang Kwape said at a Sunday press briefing in the capital Gaborone.

“We are not going to be geo-politicising this virus,” he added when asked to disclose the provenance of Botswana’s first detected Omicron cases, dating to 7 November.

Botswana has since picked up 19 cases of Omicron.

© Agence France-Presse

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