Cape Town – As the government deliberate on how to control borders in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and its mutations, health experts say a quarantine will be more efficient than a complete ban on travel.
Calls for South Africa to impose a travel ban from India are growing among local politicians and the public as the country has recently become the world's new Covid-19 epicentre, recording hundreds of thousands of new infections and thousands of deaths daily.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said a final determination would be handed to Cabinet, and a decision would then be communicated to the public.
“The department also shared concerns that a variant could be imported and result in another wave, adding that it was for this reason that the National Coronavirus Command Council was deliberating on controlling borders,” he said.
According to Professor Thumbi Ndung’u, deputy director of the African Health Research Institute, a total ban is not the solution but it should be a matter of identifying people that are coming from India and placing them under quarantine.
“These new variants or mutations seem to be emerging from anywhere in the world. As long as the virus is circulating within the population, the chances that you are going to have a mutant appear and begin to take over the epidemic are quite high,” he said.
So far, 42 African countries have reported more than 14 000 sequences. Variants B.1.1.7 which first emerged in the UK and the B.1.351 which first emerged in South Africa have respectively been reported in 20 and 23 countries, and the variant of interest, B.1.617, first described in India, has now been reported in Uganda and Kenya.
Director of the KZN Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Professor Tulio de Oliveira said travel restrictions are reactive interventions that seem not to be effective.
“Most of the time travel restrictions are not effective, for example, former US president, Donald Trump imposed travel restrictions on China and they ended up with the highest numbers of infections in the world. Screening, isolation and testing of people when they arrive that seems to work very well,” he said.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura has also cautioned against stigmatising countries due to Covid-19.
“We can't stigmatise India, we do not want countries to be stigmatised but we must take measures to protect ourselves like any country would do. Taking measures should not be about stigmatising countries, we do not want to be part of that. Covid-19 needs all of us to work together globally,” he said.
Here’s the list of other countries that have banned or require quarantine from Indian travellers: