Omicron: panic with a sprinkle of racism and xenophobia towards Africans

Covid virus
Covid-19, Image: Fusion Media Animation Unsplash
Covid virus

Social media has been in an uproar due to the release of the new ‘red list’ countries being added to the list by the UK government, which only consists of African nations.

On the 28th of November, a Spanish newspaper ‘La Tribuna de Albacete’ published an animated picture, depicting the Omicron variant as animated characters with brown skin, kinky hair, big lips and inside a boat with a South African flag which looked like it was approaching European land, because of the flag waving on the shores.

On that very day, a German newspaper ‘Die Rheinpfalz’ published a front page story with the headline “The virus from Africa is with us” followed by a picture of two people of Black African ethnicity. Then on December 2nd, the Bangkok Post wrote an article with the headline, “Government hunts for African visitors.”

The careless disrespect for Africans was met with global outrage and upset from many Africans and those worldwide, regardless of ethnicity. In reaction to the Spanish cartoon, the World Health Organisation Director General Tedros Adlhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted. “It pains me that shows of racism like this still plague the challenges facing the world today. Caricaturing people crammed in a boat bringing a virus to Europe is disgusting.”

South African politician and former leader of the opposition party Democratic Alliance (DA, also went to Twitter to share his response, writing “… The omicron response from the international community has exposed deep-seated anti-Africa sentiment.”

Dr Ayoade Alakija, the co-chair of the African Union’s Vaccine Delivery Alliance, said “The ban is based on politics, not science.” Dr Alakija blamed the situation on the lack of equitable global vaccine rollout, she said “Had the first SARS-COVID virus, the one they identified in China last year, originated in Africa, it is clear the world would have locked us away and thrown away the key. There would have been no urgency to develop vaccines because they would have been expendable. Africa would have been known as the continent of COVID.”

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, was among the first to condemn the ban, calling it unfair and discriminatory. He called it “a clear and completely unjustified departure. The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is further damage the economies of the affected countries.”

More from Voice Of London:

Wealthy western nations are banning travellers from Africa as a way to “stem the spread” of this new variant. This action is not backed up by any science and will create severe economic consequences for African countries. This is especially true during the festive seasons as most of the diaspora likes to travel home for the holidays to reunite with their loved ones they have left behind. This will make it extremely hard for African countries to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

In the United States, the Biden administration has begun restricting travel for non-U.S citizens from eight southern African countries since the 29th of November. Canada has since gone above and beyond to ban foreign traveller’s from Southern and West African countries from entering Canada. They also require its citizens who have travelled from those countries to obtain a negative COVID molecular test from a third country.

Social media sensation and poet, @Simplysayso summed up her thoughts in a piece of poetry, expressing her feelings on the travel ban being racist and singling out Africans.

Twitter Responses:

Featured image: Covid-19, Image: Fusion Media Animation Unsplash

Words by Mihlali Sidney. Subbed by Hannah Ozkadi.

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