COVID-19 cases surge across Africa as countries impose travel bans

As of December 1, 2021, confirmed cases of COVID-19 from 55 African countries reached 8,652,830 while over 148,643,411 vaccinations have been administered across the continent. Reported deaths in Africa reached  223,096 and  8,065,125 people have recovered. South Africa has the most reported cases  2,968,052 and  89,843 people died. Other most-affected countries are Morocco (949,917), Tunisia (717,572), Libya (372,636), Ethiopia (371,536), Egypt (358,578) and Kenya (255,088).

COVID-19 cases surge across Africa as countries impose travel bans

The numbers are compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University using data from the World Health Organization and other international institutions as well as national and regional public health departments.

Meanwhile a travel ban has been imposed on several African countries to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529 - called Omicron - which the World Health Organization rapidly classified a 'variant of concern", thanks to the immediate data sharing by African scientists.

International responses to this feat of scientific discovery are shocking but unsurprising. Travellers from eight southern African countries - South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, and Malawi) - have been banned from traveling to the European Union, United Kingdom, United States of America, and a growing list of other countries worldwide. Indonesia added Nigeria to its travel ban list. Hasty Omicron travel bans seem to assume that Africans - rather than nationals of the countries imposing bans - are the primary threat.
Paradoxically, returning nationals or permanent residents of those countries are not routinely barred - as though only other travellers could be Omicron transmitters. The banning of African travellers  is a myopic reaction, which is not based on sound scientific evidence and will not stop the spread of the virus. 

Where the Omicron variant emerged is not known and may never be. What we do know is that the diligence and expertise of southern African scientists led to its early identification and that their immediate sharing of the data has given all countries the soonest possible start on controlling it.

All this is more evidence of the COVID-19 inequity perpetrated by wealthier nations since 2020. A brief history of that record is instructive. In 2020, there was widespread hoarding of Covid-19 personal protective equipment. Richer nations used their financial muscle to outbid poorer nations from buying personal protective equipment for their health workers.