Top UK cleric blasts ‘travel apartheid’

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The archbishop of Canterbury has slammed the UK’s Covid-19 travel restrictions as “travel apartheid” and described the revival of its red list over the Omicron variant as “morally wrong.”

“With Omicron set to become the dominant variant in the UK, I appeal to the British government to remove Nigeria and South Africa from the red list – together with all other countries currently on it,” Justin Welby wrote in a series of tweets. 

The rebuke comes days after Britain imposed severe travel restrictions on a number of African countries in an attempt to curb the spread of the new variant. The rules mean travelers from red list countries will need to quarantine in hotels, at their own expense, for 10 days.

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In the rare political statement, the archbishop called for vaccine equity and underlined the necessity of finding “fair and effective approaches” to let vaccinated and tested people enter the UK.“We cannot have ‘travel apartheid’,” he added, echoing the reaction of Nigeria’s high commissioner to the UK, who told the BBC on Monday that a “global approach” not a “selective” one was needed.

“It is also morally wrong – and self-defeating – effectively to punish other nations for being transparent when they discover new Covid variants,” Welby said. 

The archbishop’s view on travel bans is shared by a senior emergency officer at World Health Organization’s regional office for Europe. Dr. Catherine Smallwood recently said, “Disease outbreaks are contained at their source, not at their borders,” and that travel bans are “unfair” and “not effective in preventing spread of disease.”

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