On November 26, last Friday, Canada suspended travel from South Africa and six of its neighboring countries. The suspension sparked heated debate, with South Africa feeling “punished” for having identified the Omicron variant. There is reason to feel punished. Travel restrictions are just the latest symptom of the colonial approach to COVID-19. The ban will destroy the region’s economy, while passengers from the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Belgium and other countries where Omicron has been discovered continue to fly.
Two days later, on Sunday, the Omicron was discovered in Ontario. However, Canada on Tuesday extended the ban, adding three more African countries – Malawi, Nigeria and Egypt – to the red list. This, despite the consensus among public health officials that the travel ban in this case was ineffective.
History has taught us that colonialism is about power and the marginalization of those considered ‘less than’ and ‘others’. So far, all major policy responses – from travel bans to lockdowns and vaccine launches – are prioritizing countries and citizens in the Global North while systematically denying countries of the Global South access to the resources needed to protect themselves.
The area has the mental strength and sufficient capacity to manufacture potions if licensing is permitted. South Africa, alone, has a strong research infrastructure. But giving South Africa resources and power will affect the power dynamics: it would shatter the illusion that public health expertise lies in the North and that equality in vaccines is a matter of goodwill. It will reduce the feeling of missionary benevolence, gained by donating potions (which often expire soon). And he’ll make clear that these bans aren’t logical, but psychological, epidemiologist Farhad Razak said on CBC’s Metro Morning.
to end the colonization of COVID-19; Taking seriously local solutions to the local manifestations of a global virus is not a matter of selflessness. It acknowledges historical extraction from the continent, and takes seriously what supply chain and climate change have undeniably made clear: the whole world is connected. A global, equitable solution is required to manage COVID-19.
Although we have long known that widespread vaccination may prevent Omicron, the Nordic countries have been hoarding the vaccines.
On January 31, the New York Times reported: “While more than 90 million people have been vaccinated worldwide, only 25 doses have been given across sub-Saharan Africa, a region of about a billion people, outside drug trials, according to World Health Organization”.
Again, not 25 million, 25 Persons. This means that the entire southern African region has served as a viable testing ground for a vaccine, which ultimately benefits the global citizen. If testing is suitable for the South, why don’t vaccine labs allow a local ferment but internationally distributed solution for the virus?
To flatten the vaccine field and achieve equitable distribution, the global COVAX initiative was established in April 2020. Rates in Africa remain low today, with nearly 80 percent of Canadians fully vaccinated. Only 24 percent of South Africans were fully vaccinated, while in Malawi, another embargoed country, only 3 percent received two doses..
This is a moral failure. But it is not surprising. According to the World Health Organization’s Campaign for Equality in Vaccines, high-income countries must increase healthcare spending by 0.8 percent to immunize 70 percent of their population. For low-income countries to do the same, that would require a staggering 56.6 percent increase. Southern African governments simply don’t have the resources to compete for the shots in a global market where wealthy nations, at the start of the mass spread, were selling each other out and reportedly topping out at $50 for a full dose of Pfizer’s shot.
Today’s debate centers around the travel ban, but let’s debunk it now. If the spread of COVID through air travel is by any means the primary concern, the ban will also extend to other countries where Omicron was first detected. It will cover the United States, a country on the cusp of a staggering 800,000 deaths from COVID that allows people to fly unvaccinated or tested while the delta variant rages. This is the colonial part: about who tells who not to travel. As it stands, Canadian travel policy evokes old and racist fears of Joseph Conrad’s dark continent.
Rather than focusing on the restriction of travel, which, if effective, should be applied uniformly, the debate should highlight the effects of the colonial outlook. Resources should be directed to recognizing Southern African experts and giving them credit for defining the variable. These resources can also be used to support the development of solutions around the virus expertise that can be deployed globally between North and South. Just like all of those planes, solutions will move freely in both directions.