South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday criticised travel restrictions imposed on his and other southern African countries and urged the people of his nation to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
South Africa’s latest surge of COVID-19 cases is apparently driven by the new omicron variant that is leading countries around the world to impose new restrictions.
Vaccination was "by far the most important way" to offer protection against the variant and to reduce the impact of the fourth wave, the president said in a televised address.
He added that a government task team would begin consultations on making vaccination mandatory for specific activities and locations.
The president went on to urge those countries that have enforced travel bans on travellers from souther Africa to immediately and urgently reverse their decision "before any further damage is done on our economies and to the livelihoods of our people".
There was "no scientific justification whatsoever" for keeping the restrictions in place, Ramaphosa continued.
Nearly two years into the pandemic, the world is racing to contain the latest variant, first identified in southern Africa but popping up around the globe.
The World Health Organization classified it as a highly transmissible variant of concern, though its actual risks are not yet understood.
Early evidence suggests it poses an increased risk that people who have already had COVID-19 could catch it again, the WHO said.
It could take weeks to know if current vaccines are less effective against it.