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UN chief warns African nations should not be isolated over COVID variant

Antonio Guterres suggests repeated testing, other measures to allow travel, economic engagement

Servet Gunerigok   | 29.11.2021
UN chief warns African nations should not be isolated over COVID variant

WASHINGTON

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday voiced deep concern about southern African nations being isolated due to the new COVID-19 variant known as omicron.

"I am now deeply concerned about the isolation of southern African countries due to new COVID-19 travel restrictions," said Guterres in a statement.

His remarks came days after many countries imposed travel restrictions on South Africa and other southern African countries due to omicron. It was first reported from South Africa on Nov. 24, but has since been found in numerous countries, including Western ones.

Guterres praised the South African government for identifying the emergence of omicron early and warned that low vaccine rates are "a breeding ground for variants."

"The people of Africa cannot be blamed for the immorally low level of vaccinations available in Africa – and they should not be penalized for identifying and sharing crucial science and health information with the world," he added.

The UN chief called on "all governments to consider repeated testing for travelers, together with other appropriate and truly effective measures, with the objective of avoiding the risk of transmission so as to allow for travel and economic engagement."

Last week South African scientists announced that they had detected the omicron variant, which has several mutations that may carry the risk of reinfection. Cases also turned up in Botswana and later in Hong Kong.

The World Health Organization on Friday declared it a "variant of concern."​​​​​​​

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