The Canadian government announced Friday that it is banning foreign nationals travelling to the country from seven Southern African countries, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini and Namibia.
This is among new measured the federal government has implemented, in an effort to prevent the spread of the new B.1.1.529 (Omicron) variant, first detected in South Africa. Other measures include pre-departure and arrival testing for Canadians and permanent residents, and a quarantine measure.
As calls were made for additional border measures to be implemented, including from Ontario and Alberta premiers, infectious disease and health experts in Canada took to social media, largely against this measure as an effective way to prevent spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
— 𝐒𝐮𝐦𝐨𝐧 𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐤𝐫𝐚𝐛𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐢 (@TorontoIDDoc) November 26, 2021
While the world is implementing travel bans to Southern Africa due to an emerging variant, consider this report from the recently identified case in Belgium:
"The patient did not report any link with South Africa or other Southern African countries." https://t.co/4lsQJUSeSm pic.twitter.com/cBiRPNBtHD
— Isaac Bogoch (@BogochIsaac) November 26, 2021
Guess what? Instead of blaming South Africa for identifying a variant that has likely been circulating broadly - perhaps we should think of global solutions to a global pandemic https://t.co/wDvegjCm3w
— Zain Chagla (@zchagla) November 26, 2021
How to NOT deal with a pandemic:
Big panic over a new variant that's not fully understood yet & punishing countries for reporting it
No panic over the 3+ billion people who've had little access to vaccines, tests & therapeutics
— Madhu Pai, MD, PhD (@paimadhu) November 26, 2021
In the future, when we look back at this time, we'll wonder why we allowed rich countries to hoard vaccines & allowed poorer countries to suffer, which only further entrenched inequity worldwide & led to the creation of more dangerous variants for all of us to have to deal with.
— Naheed Dosani (@NaheedD) November 26, 2021
So, do countries that banned travel from South Africa and nearby countries now also ban travel from Belgium and Israel? And do we really think this variant isn’t already present in other countries too? Let’s focus mostly on bringing R(t) back below 1 here.
— Irfan Dhalla (@IrfanDhalla) November 26, 2021
So let me get this straight…
1. We hoard vaccines from the global south.
2. As a result the Global South has variants develop due to rampant virus.
3. We then impose travel bans to Global South countries due to variants.
Colonialism prevails, even in 2021.
— Gaibrie Stephen (@SGaibrie) November 26, 2021
When asked to explain why these new restrictions will only be in place in relation to those who have been travelling in Southern African countries, Canada's Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos, stressed that the "centre of the current course" is in South Africa and Canada will benefit from other countries also introducing travel restrictions, including the U.K.
Belgium has confirmed one case of this variant, the first in the European Union, with additional cases detected in Hong Kong and Israel.
"We are adding these extra layers to countries that we believe there is community transmission of this variant," Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport, added at a press conference on Friday.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, stressed that is it "very difficult" to keep a virus like this out of Canada entirely, but it hasn't been detected in the country yet.
"I would not be surprised if many countries, over the next days, now that they’ve been alerted, might go back and try and find out if the virus had already arrived," Dr. Tam said. "The border is never 100 per cent but each layer provides an additional layer of protection."
"I don’t think people should be surprised if we did get a detection, what we’re trying to do is make sure that people who have come from that area of the country are now being quarantined."