Nzimande urges developed countries to reverse Omicron travel bans

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, has condemned the United Kingdom (UK) and other developed countries for knee jerk reactions over the country’s scientific work in genomic modelling.

This comes after the UK, all 27 European Union States and the United States imposed travel bans after South Africa revealed the new “heavily mutated” Coronavirus variant Omicron last week.

“This stance is more informed by a colonial mentality towards the Republic of South Africa and other African countries. Instead, we expect these countries to acknowledge our scientific prowess and seek to partner rather than to punish us,” he said.

Nzimande was speaking during the launch of the Nelson Mandela University Medical School on Tuesday.

“There is absolutely no scientific basis for them to shut the entire Southern African region before any evidence on the epidemiology of the Omicron variant. In any case, this variant is now being found in many more countries in Europe.”

In his capacity as the Minister of DSI, Nzimande has urged that the UK and the other countries reverse their decision to isolate the region and seek instead to work together in collaboration with our network of scientists.

“It is through collaboration and working together that we will defeat COVID-19 rather than unilateral, and unscientific, actions and reactions.”

The Minister took the time to applaud the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP), funded by the DSI, which played a critical role in identifying the Beta variant and recently the B.1.1.529 or Omicron.

“The KRISP team’s genome sequencing demonstrated South Africa’s leadership in this area on a world stage, and contributed to the understanding of emerging variants and their effect on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.”

According to the Minister, this work continues to inform government decision-making on which vaccines to procure and preventative measures to take to reduce the risks associated with this pandemic.

“With our scientific prowess and unselfish contribution in the fight against COVID-19 has also been shown in our reaction to a global shortage of ventilators to treat hospitalised COVID-19 patients.”

He said the DSI and the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition mandated the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory to use its existing capabilities to produce non-invasive ventilators for the National Ventilator Project. –