The variant has prompted several countries to impose restrictions such as travel bans on several southern African countries, while others have renewed lockdowns over the new strain.
The ban on flights following the discovery of the variant “is akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker,” the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
The new restrictions come after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the new COVID-19 variant to be “of concern”.
The Omicron variant, which scientists say has a high number of mutations, was first detected in South Africa last week and has spread rapidly through the province of Gauteng, home to the economic hub Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria.
It has so far been detected in at least four other countries.
Also known as B.1.1.529, the mutations could help the virus evade the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible, according to scientists.
It could take weeks to know if current vaccines are less effective against it.
In response to the variant’s discovery, the United States, Canada, Russia and a host of other countries joined the European Union and the United Kingdom in restricting travel for visitors from several southern African countries.
Women’s Cricket World Cup qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe cancelled
The women’s cricket World Cup qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe has been abandoned after the discovery of the Omicron coronavirus variant in South Africa, the sport’s governing body said.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) took the decision after Saturday’s game between the West Indies and Sri Lanka was called off when a member of the Sri Lankan support staff tested positive for COVID-19.
“We are incredibly disappointed to have to cancel the remainder of this event,” Chris Tetley, the ICC’s Head of Events, said in a statement.
“But with travel restrictions from a number of African countries being imposed at such short notice, there was a serious risk that teams would be unable to return home.
“We have explored a number of options to allow us to complete the event but it isn’t feasible and we will fly the teams out of Zimbabwe as soon as possible.”
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