The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) has followed with keen interest the recent developments in reaction to the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus pandemic.
We have noted the recommendations by the World Health Organization (WHO), and the reactions of various governments across the world, both in terms of international travel restrictions and domestic epidemiological measures.
Sadly, a pattern of travel restrictions and associated propaganda is beginning to emerge; a development that is neither informed by science nor justified by sound clinical and epidemiological principles.
It is quite regrettable that several western countries have been swift to expand their travel ‘Red lists’ to African countries even against the recommendations of the WHO and their own domestic experts. This has given rise to valid suspicions that these inconsiderate reactions are driven by base considerations of bare-faced prejudice.
Recently, the Canadian government announced that it will no longer accept PCR test results from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria and Egypt. It further stated that passengers from these countries must have a PCR test result from a third country. The justification for this discriminatory stipulation is clearly more emotional than scientific; and a contemptible knee-jerk reaction and it’s ridiculous impracticality is a national disgrace for a developed country like Canada.
Following on the inglorious heels of Canada was the United Kingdom, which had several African countries including Nigeria on its travel ‘red list’ from Monday December 6th. Curiously, the UK has not offered any data backed by science to justify her action. Available records from the WHO indicate that the Omicron variant has been identified in over 40 countries across the world with no associated death so far. Many of these countries including Greece, Finland, France, Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Romania among others are in Europe, yet the UK did not extend travel restrictions on them but rather choose to clamp a ban on travellers from Nigeria after a disdainful one-hour notice. The UK authorities did not stop there, but proceeded to announce that it was withholding decisions on visitor Visa applications from all the countries on the “red list”. The implication of the UK’s actions is grave. They are clearly unfair and unjustified, and leave very little room to doubt the growing conviction that they are racially motivated.
Disturbing on the same scale is the misleading headline in the German newspaper, Rheinpfalz, titled – ‘‘The Virus from Africa is with us’’, and illustrated with a picture of a Black African mother and child that is neither related to the story nor relevant to any purpose other than the dark one of rebranding this Omicron variant as an African disease. This callous misrepresentation is more worrying when it comes from a country with a dark past and a very recent history of large-scale racially-motivated and state-sponsored violence, murder, genocide and abuse, even in football.
It is disheartening that the WHO’s open commendation of the South African and Botswana’s governments for their “speed and transparency in informing the world of the new variant” as part of the global concerted effort in tackling COVID-19 is being tragically downplayed. The red flag of the new variant boldly raised by African countries has been turned into a weapon against Africans in a way that negates science and the global efforts to combat covid-19. United Nations Secretary- General, Antonio Guterres in condemnation of what he called “travel apartheid” emphasised that the discrimination against African countries was unacceptable noting “when they were the ones that revealed the existence of the new variant that, by the way, already existed in other parts of the world, including in Europe”.
The misguided hysteria being displayed by western nations against African countries since the outbreak of the Omicron variant inadvertently clouds their sincerity in the global coalition against Covid-19. It gives them away as colluders in the worsening scenario of vaccine inequality threatening global action against the pandemic. Vaccines are allowed to go to waste in Europe and other advanced countries where they have been over supplied, while African countries are supplied meagre quantities even after placing orders and showing genuine payment commitment. Enacting policies that shuts Africa from the rest of the world, not accepting tests from African countries demonstrates nothing but stereotyping and racism.
These discriminatory regulations, shocking in their total disregard of the rules of international engagement, are likely to undermine the genuine world-wide collaboration that is required to contain this pandemic as well as the trust that is needed to maintain public health alliances for the protection of our world in the future.
We commend the governments of Nigeria and South Africa for being in the forefront of a robust and commensurate response by African countries to this clear case of systematic and undiplomatic discrimination from Western nations.
It is urgently necessary for western governments to work hard to drain the reservoirs of ignorance and prejudice that these ill-judged actions stem from if the genuine progress made in international collaboration against Covid-19 is not to be jeopardized.