President Cyril Ramaphosa said early data shows that while the Omicron variant of Covid-19 appears to be more transmissible, hospital admission rates remained stable.

He was speaking after the start of high-level talks between South Africa and Ghana at Jubilee House in Accra on Saturday.

Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo joined Ramaphosa in lambasting the bans by Western countries, saying they were a form of immigration control imposed by Western countries.

Ramaphosa told media that he spoke to SA’s Health Minister Joe Phaala, on Saturday, who said while the Omicron variant appeared to be more transmissible, hospital admission rates were not at alarming levels. 

It’s for this reason, he said, people should not panic. “We got to get vaccination levels up. This is where more developed economies have been so greedy where they hoarded vaccines and not really made vaccines available.

“We had to scrounge around for vaccines,” Ramaphosa said.

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Ramaphosa said he has been making a number of calls to many heads of state of countries who have imposed the travel ban to request them to review their decisions.

“It’s no longer just located in Southern Africa. I am basically saying that those countries must adhere to what was agreed to at the G20, where it was agreed that we must open travel so that our economies can go back to normal,” he said at the conclusion of talks. 

The Ghanaian President weighed in, saying the developing countries who were sitting on Covid-19 vaccine supplies should make them available for the continent.

He said the bans was another indication of how unfairly African countries were treated on global issues.

He laughed while saying: “Initially, we were told that the streets of our continent will be littered with the bodies of Africans. Melinda Gates and others were making these remarks … and the way that God works … America …” he said.

“If it was being done on a fair basis, South Africa itself was not be the subject of the ban. People act in an arbitrary manner, responding to, I don’t know, political, racial considerations,” Akuffo-Addo said.

Meanwhile, Ramaphosa said the state visit took place during a “storm of bannings and banishments of South Africans from travelling around the world”. 

“We would like thank you for your solidarity and standing with us when the rest of the world was banning South Africans from travelling to other parts of the world. You proved to us that you adhere to science rather than politics and emotion.”

He repeated South Africa was punished when it ought to have been applauded for telling the world about the Omicron variant. 

Ramaphosa added the punitive bans were travel apartheid. 

“While we respect the right of all countries to take precautionary measures to protect their citizens, ending the pandemic requires that we should collaborate and we should continue sharing expertise,” the president said, adding he hoped the countries which imposed the bans reconsidered their stance.

READ | Omicron: New Covid-19 variant sparks fresh ‘vaccine apartheid’ outrage

He added as much as western countries wanted to dub the Omicron variant the “South African variant”, it had been found all over the world. 

Ramaphosa’s visit to Accra is the third leg of a four-nation tour of West Africa where the president sought solidarity from his counterparts amid the travel bans which he said would have devastating consequences. 

His state visit began with a ceremony and a trip to the Grand Durbar 50th Anniversary of the enthronement of Nana Otuo Siriboe II, Ohanhene of the Juaben Traditional Area. 

Ramaphosa held private talks with Akuffo-Addo before joining ministers from both countries for the inauguration of the bi-national commission.

READ | Omicron variant: Rwanda first sub-Saharan country to ban flights to SA

Akuffo-Addo said the commission would be used as a framework for where bilateral discussions would take place. 

Both countries expressed the need to increase trade between them. 

Ramaphosa said more than 200 South African companies were registered in Ghana.

“This for us is a source of pride and joy. We do, however, want to see Ghanaian companies register and operate in South Africa.”

He reiterated his view expressed repeatedly on this trip that investment between South Africa and West Africa should not be a one way stream.  

“We want to increase trade, particularly in value-added products.” 

At the start of the opening remarks, the president of Ghana expressed his condolences to Ramaphosa on the death of former apartheid president FW de Klerk. 

By MD Abdullah

Abdullah is a former educator, lifelong money nerd, and a Plutus Award-winning freelance writer who specializes in the scientific research behind irrational money behaviors. Her background in education allows her to make complex financial topics relatable and easily understood by the layperson. She is the author of four books, including End Financial Stress Now and The Five Years Before You Retire.

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