Officials in South Africa have said they are being punished for identifying a strain and sharing crucial science and health information.

The WHO's director for Africa has spoken out against barring travellers from the continent, saying it
The WHO's director for Africa has spoken out against barring travellers from the continent, saying it "attacks global solidarity." (Reuters)

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has slammed travel bans targeting specific countries and regions imposed over the new Covid-19 variant as "unfair" and "ineffective."

"With a virus that is truly borderless, travel restrictions that isolate any one country or region are not only deeply unfair and punitive, they are ineffective," Guterres said on Wednesday, calling instead for increased testing for travellers.

Dozens of countries imposed restrictions on travel from southern African states after the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was first reported in the region last week.

Guterres said countries that had reported the emergence of the new strain should not "be collectively punished for identifying and sharing crucial science and health information with the world."

He reiterated an appeal to governments to implement augmented testing measures for travellers "together with other appropriate and truly effective measures."

"This is the only way to reduce the risk of transmission while allowing for travel and economic engagement."

READ MORE: WHO pleads for 'rational' Omicron response – latest updates

'Afrophobia'

The World Health Organization (WHO) has determined the overall risk from Omicron to be "very high".

But the WHO's director for Africa has spoken out against barring travelers from the continent, saying it "attacks global solidarity."

Officials in South Africa have said they are being punished for identifying a strain that has now been detected everywhere from the Netherlands to Britain, Canada and Hong Kong.

The Netherlands’ RIVM health institute found Omicron in samples dating from November 19 and 23, AP reported on Tuesday.

South Africa first reported the variant to the UN health agency on Nov 24.

Malawi's President Lazarus Chakwera accused Western countries of "Afrophobia."

READ MORE: Findings indicate Omicron was in Europe before South Africa detected it

Source: TRTWorld and agencies