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South Africa 'punished' for detecting Omicron Covid variant: Govt

The decision by a number of countries around the world to ban flights from southern Africa following the discovery of the variant "is akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker.

November 27, 2021 / 05:59 PM IST
(Representative image: Reuters)

(Representative image: Reuters)

South Africa complained Saturday that it is being "punished" for detecting a new Covid-19 variant Omicron which the World Health Organization has termed a "variant of concern" and is more transmissible than the dominant Delta strain.

The decision by a number of countries around the world to ban flights from southern Africa following the discovery of the variant "is akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker," the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.

ALSO READ: In-Depth | Omicron: All you need to know about new COVID-19 strain from South Africa

"Excellent science should be applauded and not punished," it said.

The ministry pointed out that new variants had been discovered in other parts of the world.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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"Each of those cases have had no recent links with Southern Africa, but the reaction to those countries is starkly different to cases in Southern Africa," it said.

Israel and Belgium announced after South Africa that they also had detected cases of Omicron.

Government insisted that South Africa's "capacity to test and its ramped-up vaccination programme, backed up by a world-class scientific community should give our global partners the comfort that we are doing as well as they are in managing the pandemic".

With more than 2.95 million cases and 89,783 deaths, South Africa is the worst-hit country in Africa by the pandemic.
AFP
first published: Nov 27, 2021 05:59 pm
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