BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
DOZENS of health and human rights organisations have called on United States President Joe Biden to unconditionally lift the travel ban imposed on southern African countries, Zimbabwe included.
The US imposed a travel ban on southern Africa after the Omicron variant was detected in the region.
In a letter seen by NewsDay, more than 18 organisations, including Oxfam and Health Gap, yesterday accused Biden of punishing the world-class scientific leadership exhibited by Botswana and South Africa in identifying and sequencing the variant.
“Their selflessness has been met, not with praise and gratitude, but with racist and xenophobic travel bans that have no basis in evidence,” read part of the letter.
The organisations argued that although testing and surveillance of air travellers might be appropriate, selective travel bans were ineffectual and punishing to the targeted countries.
“Of note, there is already documented evidence of community spread in the US. Your administration has pledged to lead with public health, evidence and human rights in its response to COVID-19. Your travel bans, like the travel bans pursued by your predecessor, are inconsistent with that promise.”
The groups also spoke out against extreme global inequities in COVID-19 vaccine and treatment access, which have created the conditions that allow variants such as Omicron to flourish.
They demanded that the US should by all means exert diplomatic and political pressure to secure a substantive waiver of intellectual property rights for vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19.
“The US should also support the South Africa-WHO mRNA technology transfer hub, which will enable local mRNA vaccine production and serve as a learning site for global manufacturers, including by using your authority under law and contract to share NIH-Moderna vaccine information and technology with the world,” they said.