Passengers at Johannesburg’s O.R Tambo airport scrambled this Saturday to find flights to Europe as more and more countries are shutting doors to passengers coming from African countries.
The emergence of the new coronavirus Omicron variant in South Africa sparked a worldwide reaction.
Professor of Immunology Danny Altmann explains.
“I know it feels very harsh to people in South Africa who have really done the right thing and been terribly speedy and vigilant in their reporting. But I just feel that we were so slow to act on Delta and the whole world paid such a high price for it. Let’s try and be forewarned and do it properly this time. So, I think it probably is warranted”, said the academic working at Imperial College London.
Last minute PCR tests are now mandatory.
The UK-based professor believes that vaccination still offers protection against the worst effects of this disease.
“I think it’s a case of kind of hope for the best and fear the worst, isn’t it? So in some ways, if you look at the straight molecular biology limitations, it looks potentially quite a lot scarier even than Delta. And don’t forget, we thought of Delta. I certainly thought Delta as a peak variant, and probably it couldn’t get much worse than that. This looks potentially worse. On the other hand, there’s no reporting from South Africa yet that cases are more severe, and it looks like vaccines may still be doing something because we heard there yesterday that the people in hospital tended to be the unvaccinated people rather than the vaccinated”, said Professor Altmann.
In Africa vaccination rates are significantly lower compared to Europe, the United States and other regions.
According to Professor Altmann, distribution of vaccines throughout Africa is essential to stop future variants.
“You know, in this particular case, if it did come out of Botswana and or South Africa, there has been quite a lot of vaccine available there. But as you say in the African continent as a whole, they’ve been very short of vaccines compared to Europe or North America. And things like this demonstrate how foolhardy that is. We’re just breeding the future variants to come and haunt us. Why do it?”
The latest available data indicate that South Africa has registered almost 3 million cases of Covid-19 and close to 90,000 deaths.