Omicron: Banning flights from Africa not racist, says virologist

Segun Adewole

A foremost professor of virology and former Vice-Chancellor of the Redeemer’s University, Ede, Oyewale Tomori, has said racism has nothing to do with the banning of flights from Africa by Western countries due to the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The new variant was first discovered by South African scientists and later named Omicron by the World Health Organisation.

Since the discovery, many Western countries have banned flights from countries in the southern part of Africa.

This was condemned by President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, saying he’s “deeply disappointed” by the action, just as he called for the lifting of the ban.

Tomori, during an interview with Arise TV’s The Morning Show programme on Monday, gave his thought on the travel restrictions placed on the African countries due to the discovery of Omicron.

The virologist lamented that Botswana that got the first cases of the new strain is protecting the identity of the diplomats tested while the rest of the world is not protecting Africa.

He said if Botswana reveals where the diplomats are from, it will help in determining the origin of the new variant.

“So, Botswana keeping quiet is now falling back on all of us in Africa,” Tomori said, adding that Botswana should “come out with the full truth.”

He continued, “As for the Western world making what is being called a knee-jerk reaction, I ask, if we are in their position, what will we do after experiencing what happened with the Delta variant and with this new variant coupled with the problems they are having with vaccines?

“Would you rather wait until you know fully about the virus or you take a precautionary step to learn more about it?

“So, I think it is not right to fault them, to say that they put this ban in a knee-jerk reaction. That is the normal thing they should do.

“If a thief is coming to your house, you don’t check whether he has one or two guns, you prevent before you know what he has. That’s the way I think we should look at it.

“I think we complain too much in Africa about some of these things without really looking at the situation.”

Tomori was then asked if racism played a part in the current COVID-19 restrictions placed on African countries by the Western world which allegedly didn’t do the same to China where the first case of the deadly virus was discovered.

He said, “The first time it happened in China, it was condemned by a lot of people. We shouldn’t continue to do the same mistake we did with China.

“China did not impose anything and we condemned China for it. We cannot be repeating the same situation when it comes to us, and start blaming colour, racism or something of that nature.

“The truth of the fact is that we have a matter in our hands and Nigeria should take precautionary measures.

“From what we are hearing, some Nigerians that travelled to Canada are positive, so the new strain may already be here.”

He said Africans should perish the thought that they are facing racism or being persecuted, saying most of it is their fault, adding that it is just a misdirection of anger.

SOURCE: THE PUNCH

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