WATCH | Ramaphosa: Omicron travel ban a 'slap in the face of African excellence'

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  • President Cyril Ramaphosa says Omicron travel bans were a slap in the face of African excellence and called on countries to rethink the ban.
  • Ramaphosa said this on a state visit to Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire. 
  • He has used his four-country West Africa tour to canvass for support against the travel bans which he insists are unfair.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has doubled down on his rejection of travel bans to South Africa amid the discovery of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, saying it was a slap in the face of African excellence.

"Given that it was our own African scientists who first detected the Omicron variant, it is also a slap in the face of African excellence and expertise," he said at the conclusion of formal talks between him and Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan. 

Ramaphosa has used his four-country West Africa tour to canvass for support against the travel bans which he insisted was unfair.

"The imposition of travel bans on South Africa and a number of countries in the southern African region are regrettable, unfair and unscientific," the president said, reiterating his stance on the matter. 

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

On Thursday, Ramaphosa held one-one-one talks with Ouattara at the presidential palace where he received a warm reception. 

He led a number of ministers who signed agreements with their counterparts in areas that include, among others, defence and agriculture. 

"I want to use this opportunity to once again call on the countries which have imposed these travel restrictions to urgently reconsider their decision and lift these bans," Ramaphosa said. 

Covid-19 and the travel bans took centre stage in discussions during the first two legs of his tour. 

READ | South Africans devastated over travel ban, some left stranded abroad

He added the ban would cause untold damage on South Africa's economy and tourism sector. 

"I want to use this opportunity to thank President Ouattara for the demonstration of solidarity in agreeing that this state visit should go ahead," Ramaphosa said, noting countries should be led by science and not emotion.  

"Whilst we respect the right of every country to take measures to protect their people, the sustained global co-operation we need to overcome the pandemic necessitates that we are led by science. As South Africa, we stand firmly against any form of health apartheid in the fight against this pandemic." 

During the talks, the two heads of state discussed vaccines and the need for it to be freely available to African countries.  

"Governments and international partners need to unite around a global guarantee which ensures that vaccines and treatments are produced at scale and made freely and equitably available to all people," Ramaphosa said.
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