Omicron virus: Why impose tough traveling rules on Africans?

Gradually, information is coming out across the globe about a new variant of the COVID – 19. When the entire world is preparing for Xmas, suddenly Omicron, another variant of the deadly coronavirus appeared. Some scientists traced the Omicron variant to South Africa. At the time of writing this article, it was in the news that Nigeria has recorded its first cases of Omicron variant in the country and Canada has banned travelers from Nigeria, Malawi and Egypt and a few African countries because of Omicron. Nations have started reviewing travel protocols and imposing extra Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests on travelers. The World Health Organization (WHO) has referred to the Omicron variant as a “Variant of Concern.” And as part of its core responsibility, WHO has advised that the risk posed by Omicron to rich and poor countries is “very high.” Although, many scientists have stated that not much is known about the new variant, the official statement from WHO shows that people all over the world must be careful. Despite the panic displayed by governments globally, we have been told by the US President, Joe Biden that the world should not panic.

Scientists have said that there are many variants of COVID – 19. The question that comes to mind is: How will the world mitigate a shape shifting virus of this nature? Some nations have reacted to the Omicron variant in a progressive fashion which has defined their response to the pandemic so far. For instance, Europe has acted swiftly in a collaborative manner by rewarding travelers from southern Africa with a travel ban to Europe. As travel restrictions are imposed and vaccine mandates are enforced, some European countries are calling on those vaccinated to go receive booster shots. The United Kingdom has ordered for more vaccines to enable it vaccinate adults with the fourth jab. In a globalized world, can we blame these rich and industrialized countries for taking care of their people first in the face of a pandemic? Some analysts have asked why cannot Africans produce vaccines to cater to the needs of their people.

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Anyway, African leaders have expressed their displeasure on the travel ban because such restrictions will affect their economies. Reflecting on the travel ban imposed on a few African nations by Europe and Canada, there is a feeling that the issue is not about hatred. One feels that reactions from Canada and other European countries is to urge African countries to rise to the occasion of providing vaccines for their people in order to fight this new variant of COVID – 19. Indeed, the outbreak of COVID – 19 is a wakeup call on African nations to intensify efforts in research and development of vaccines.

The new thread of travel bans targeted at the countries in the Southern African region gives the impression that in a situation like this, it is every country to itself.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in 2019, one is reminded about the theory of evolution which posits that the fittest survives while the weakest may become extinct if appropriate survival strategies are not emplaced. Rather than see much global collaborative efforts as a result of promises made by vaccine producing nations since the outbreak of COVID -19 to ensure that the world is sufficiently vaccinated, we observed that delivery pledges lag behind. Accordingly, rich nations are blamed by critics for failing to provide vaccines to people from less developed countries.

There is a video clip trending in which a lady reported to be the co-chair of the Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance argued strongly that the global system has “failed” not only Africa but less developed countries in the delivery of COVID – 19 vaccines. She suggested that deliveries and donations that came in trickles are really stressing the already stressed health system in Africa.

Though it would take weeks before scientists will know whether Omicron is more contagious, whether it causes illness and how it will respond to existing vaccines. But the COVID -19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) stated in one of its official reports that it has so far distributed over 560 million doses globally. Its goal of achieving over one billion doses at the end of 2021 seems unachievable. Why? COVAX claimed that chain and production issues, vaccine hesitancy, and hoarding by some rich nations are some of the reasons.

The coronavirus seems to be in control from all indications, and we must all fasten our seatbelts. The popular maxim that no one is safe until everyone is safe remains valid. But the new thread of travel bans targeted at the countries in the Southern African region gives the impression that in a situation like this, it is every country to itself. This is not supposed to be, especially in a world where we advocate equality and fairness. There is no equality in vaccine distribution. One is therefore tempted to ask: What are other less developed countries doing to rescue their citizens from the grips of the invisible enemy – COVID – 19?

Put differently, how do we mitigate the Omicron variant and how do we build back after the pandemic? Mitigating the Omicron during and after the pandemic ought to be the ultimate objective of nations. We observed that humanity cannot avoid fighting the invisible enemy. But fighting the invisible enemy – COVID – 19 – has not been easy since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2019.

A nation can only mitigate the Omicron variant if it knows how to alleviate those factors that could lead to the variant. So, as global citizens, ours is to adopt a strategy to mitigate the risk of fighting an invisible enemy which is now the Omicron variant. Therefore, I asked an immunologist about the solution and she suggested that: “COVID -19 countermeasures must be based on science, not “Afrophobia.” Why, I asked? “The reason is that the Omicron variant is not only from Southern Africa. The cases of infection by Omicron in other parts of the world have been reported. It would take time for scientists to establish whether Omicron will respond favorably to WHO approved vaccines or not.”

“Since the number of those vaccinated in poor countries is low, more people must get vaccinated. While there ought to be plans to commence giving booster shots to those who have been fully vaccinated earlier. Whatever the mitigation strategy that is to be adopted, those in authority must pay attention to habits of people globally.” The call for better habits will enable us attacks our bad habits at the point where they are strongest.

Therefore, until nations attain herd immunity, it is suggested that we wear our face masks outside and when indoors with other people who are not vaccinated. While keeping safe distances as laid down by the National Center for Diseases Control. I hope all my respected readers are vaccinated, and that they are not tired of observing laid down protocols of COVID- 19. Anyway, it seems that the coronavirus is not tired of humanity. That is why it is shape shifting itself. As we prepare for Xmas, governments at all levels need to provide vaccines and sensitize the citizens about the need to be vaccinated. Methinks that we all need to be vaccinated while urging all adults particularly those with morbidity to adhere to all safety protocols. Thank you.

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