South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Sunday (November 28) he was "deeply disappointed" after rich Western countries for their knee-jerk imposition of travel bans after hearing about the new variant.
Ramaphosa also said the country faced a fourth wave of COVID-19 within weeks, as the new omicron variant was driving a rise in infections in the most populated province of Gauteng.
He said authorities would not be considering economic lockdown restrictions for the time being, due to the availability of vaccines for those aged 12 and over.
South African officials are furious about a British ban on flights from southern African countries, on which several other countries followed suit. Many South Africans feel they are being punished for their transparency and hard work in keeping tabs on the way the virus is mutating.
"This is a clear and completely unjustified departure from the commitment that many of these countries made at the meeting of the G20 countries in Rome last month," Ramaphosa said.
He said a cabinet meeting was held where it was decided South Africa would remain at low risk alert level one, but warned South Africa was in the process of considering "introducing measures that make vaccination a condition for access to workplaces, public events, public transport and public establishments."
Scientists have so far only detected the new Omicron variant in relatively small numbers, mainly in South Africa but also in Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel. But they are concerned by its high number of mutations which raised concerns that it could be more vaccine-resistant and transmissible.
(Production: Omer Berberoglu, Mindy Burrows)