Researcher who helped discover omicron blasts travel bans: ‘Is that how you reward science?’

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The scientist who helped discover the omicron coronavirus variant is ripping the travel bans that multiple nations, including the U.S., have imposted on certain African countries in an attempt to slow its spread.

“Is that how you reward science? By blacklisting countries?” Sikhulile Moyo, a virologist at the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership who is considered one of the first to identify omicron, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“The virus does not know passports, it does not know borders,” Moyo added. “We should not do geopolitics about the virus. … We should be collaborating and understanding.”

Not much is known about the omicron variant, including how transmissible it is or if it can evade current vaccines. 

Moyo said he first noticed the new variant because of its significant number of mutations compared to previous strains. 

The Biden administration has defended its travel restrictions amid criticisms from scientists and the World Health Organization, saying they are needed until more is known about the variant. 

“I wouldn’t anticipate the lifting of restrictions before we know more about the variant,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “None of these are meant to be permanent, none of them are meant to be a punishment, they’re all put in place to protect the American people to hopefully save more lives.” 

Tags COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa Jen Psaki omicron SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant Variants of SARS-CoV-2
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