The commendable work done by South African scientists in unearthing and transparently announcing to the world the discovery of the Omicron strain of SARS CoV-2 instead of attracting applause was met with harsh and uncoordinated travel restrictions, the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) has lamented.
“Unfortunately, in nearly two years since COVID-19 was first discovered, it appears we have not learned useful lessons that could lead to finding a permanent solution to the pandemic,”
AFRAA stated. According to the airlines body, the unscientific, poorly targeted, knee-jerk reactions that have not helped much in containing the SARS CoV-2 virus since March 2020 seem to be the preferred response to scientific challenges of our time.
AFRAA further that “Restricting travel has never been the solution to curtailing the spread of COVID. On the contrary, such restrictions have adversely impacted economies and unleash untold hardship.”
AFRAA also said: “In the case of Omicron, the hasty decisions by some EU countries to ban travel to South Africa and other neighbouring countries in Southern Africa, is in stark contrast to the numerous unheeded appeals to the western world to ensure equitable access to vaccines around the world.
“While stockpiling excess vaccines they may never need at the expense of developing countries that remain in a long queue for their supplies, the developed world is yet to fully understand that COVID19 virus does not discriminate.”
AFRAA Secretary-General, Mr. Abdérahmane Berthé, stated: “The Omicron variant is now detected in several regions of the world, yet the travel bans seem to be targeted at Africa.
This is an affront to the global efforts to find an enduring solution. We will be better off confronting the virus if we work together for solutions and avoid discrimination.
“Why target Africa when the virus is reported in other regions as well? Any attempts to stigmatize Africa through travel bans will not work. We should not confuse politics with science,” Berthé added.
AFRAA also made an urgent call, stating: “The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) is calling on all countries that have issued unilateral travel restrictions to immediately revoke them and instead seek collaborative measures that will address the COVID challenge holistically.
Besides vaccination, there are tried and tested protocols that have proven effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19. These must continue to apply while we work together towards neutralising or eliminating the virus.
“AFRAA is also urging Afri-can governments to speak out at any attempts to smear the continent with propaganda and medical mischief. They must remind the world that we can only defeat Covid together not divided.”
Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that the recovery in air travel continued in October 2021 with broad-based improvements in both domestic and international markets. It also warned that the imposition of travel bans by governments, against the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO), could threaten the sector’s recovery.
Total demand for air travel in October 2021 (measured in revenue passenger kilometers or RPKs) was down 49.4 per cent compared to October 2019. This was improved over the 53.3 per cent fall recorded in September 2021, compared to two years earlier.
Domestic markets were down 21.6 per cent compared to October 2019, bettering the 24.2 per cent decline recorded in September versus September 2019.
International passenger demand in October was 65.5 per cent below October 2019, compared to a 69.0 per cent decline for September versus the 2019 period, with all regions showing improvement.
“October’s traffic performance reinforces that people will travel when they are permitted to.
Unfortunately, government responses to the emergence of the Omicron variant are putting at risk the global connectivity it has taken so long to rebuild,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director-General.