Travel bans have been at the centre of discussion in recent weeks after South Africa’s detection of the Omicron variant was rapidly met with a host of restrictions imposed by almost 70 countries, which President Cyril Ramaphosa described as “unscientific and discriminatory”.
The United States was part of those countries who imposed travel bans on South Africa, but top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci said that this gave the US enough time to “figure out what was going on”.
Speaking at the National Press Club, Fauci said: “In the beginning, if you want to buy some time, when you have very little [Omicron] if any in your own country, which is what we did with the southern African countries, to give us a chance to regroup and figure out what was going on, that made sense.”
“I think when you get to the point when there’s enough of a virus in your own country, it doesn’t really make any sense of trying to keep it out, because this [Omicron] is spreading so rapidly right now,” Fauci added as the Omicron variant now accounts for 73% of cases in the United States.
Only returning citizens, or those who qualify for specific exemptions, are allowed to enter the US, but on the topic of travel bans on Southern Africa, Fauci said: “We’re likely going to pull back on that pretty soon, because we have enough [Omicron] infection in our own country and we’re letting in people from other countries that have as much or more infection than the southern African countries.”
Meanwhile, South Africa recorded 15 424 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday as well as 35 new COVID-19-related deaths.
According to a statement by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the number of new cases represents a 27.6% positivity rate. Most of the new cases are from KwaZulu-Natal (26%), followed by the Western Cape (22%). Gauteng accounted for 21%; while the Eastern Cape stands at 9% and the Free State 6%. The North West accounted for 5%; Limpopo and Mpumalanga recorded 4% each, and the Northern Cape 3%.
As at 1pm on Tuesday, December 21, the Western Cape had 40 312 active infections with a total of 574 127 COVID-19 cases to date.
Picture: Twitter /@FauciFan