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[–]PGLiberal 1366 points1367 points1368 points  (88 children)

One thing I've heard about S. Africa is they are very, very good at testing for variants, far better then other countries. So I think the reason why so many variants get discovered in S. Africa is because of that.

This variant?

Guess what?

Its already everywhere, its just we don't know.

[–]BasicallyAQueer 6 points7 points8 points  (0 children)

Actually, they don’t know for sure where it originated, just that it was most likely somewhere in North America.

Kansas was just where the first diagnosis happened, but there had been previous cases, especially bad ones in New York.

Interestingly, the Spanish Flu didn’t really go global until the US entered the war and moved infected troops into Europe.

[–]GforceDz 114 points115 points116 points  (15 children)

Its probably all politics.
Seems like SA is actually doing the correct thing checking for variants.

And the other countries want to keep sticking their heads in the sand and saying things are normally.

The this variant pops up and they have to be seen to take action, but they don't want to admit it's probably too late to avoid and they want to pretend it's all good.

[–]green_flash 176 points177 points178 points  (39 children)

I think there is a misunderstanding there. South Africa does a lot of genomic surveillance compared to other countries in the region, but it's still far from sequencing as much as countries like Denmark, New Zealand, Australia or Sweden.

Nevertheless if it really has an evolutionary advantage over Delta it's quite likely that it is already circulating in low numbers in various countries all over the world, mostly because most infections aren't even detected let alone sequenced.

One reason why multiple variants were first detected in South Africa is because there is a high number of immunocompromised patients in the region due to the large prevalence of HIV. There's for example the case of an HIV-infected woman from South Africa who was battling the virus for 7 months and it mutated 32 times in her body.

[–]veritas723 22 points23 points24 points  (1 child)

i mean, you can blame china. but blame also has to rest on western countries that did nothing even after info on the disease was widely known.

taiwan, south korea, had much better responses, targeted tracking and robust lockdown procedures, as well as a populace that didn't pitch a hissy fit about masks or being on lockdown.

europe on the other hand, did largely nothing, until italy exploded as a hot spot. And the United states did less than nothing until there were multiple hot spots on the east and west coast .... then pretended like it was the big cities problem while the rest of the nation did fuck all. until... the big cities got it under control, and then the shitty red state areas bloomed as 2nd wave hot spots.

putting it like china... with holding information means shit, given the trash response of most of western society. is just cheap racist scapegoating.

[–]ArsonJones 4027 points4028 points4029 points  (398 children)

"A statement by the South African foreign ministry on Saturday strongly criticised the travel bans.

"Excellent science should be applauded and not punished," it said."

Excellent science should be applauded, not subverted by politicians to frame travel restrictions as "punishments."

[–]Bizzle_worldwide 78 points79 points80 points  (2 children)

I guess the problem is more that they’re picking and choosing who to put travel bans in place for.

We have confirmed cases now in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and several others. If we’re implementing preventative travel bans, all intra-Europe and international travel from Europe should be grounded as well, but nobody has called for that.

That’s where the “punishment” comes in. If South Africa had said nothing, and waited until Belgium sequenced it and announced a novel variant, it wouldn’t be on the preliminary list, and economically impacted.

If we’re going to do travel restrictions (and we absolutely should), they should trigger automatically when a case is not only detected and disclosed in a country, but also when one is detected in a traveller who has arrived from a country. No politics. No subjective considerations on a case by case basis. A technocratic metric-based restriction protocol.

[–]Fragrant-Let9249 3 points4 points5 points  (0 children)

Not just the expertise.

Between them the UK and South Africa are responsible for 90+% of covid sequencing.

They are pretty much the only countries that routinely do this (think 0.5% of all positive samples are sent for testing in the UK as standard).

In Africa SA may be the only country capable of doing this but that's not the only reason they are picking it up. The vast majority of wealthier countries just don't bother.

A strain could easily originate in Germany or the US and still only get picked up when it reaches the UK or SA.

Chances are it is already everywhere and dealing with that is where the focus should go not just blocking flights. Now other countries are looking they are finding it. Just from a media stand point it goes

  • South Africa identify variant
  • variant identified in South Africa found in X

Makes the countries doing routine testing look bad when it isn't their fault at all.

[–]nhavar 97 points98 points99 points  (11 children)

It's not punishment. No one is being punished. If we shut down travel world wide would that be punishment? No, it would be a precaution. Saying it's punishment is just a political game. You take precautions to stem the flow of people coming from a known source... for instance 61 passengers from two South African flights landed in the Netherlands and tested positive for Covid. Variant aside that is cause for concern.

If other countries had a similar positive case rate coming in then you'd want to shut them down too. But for now you start by limiting travel to and from where you know the variant is regardless of how awesome their scientists are.

When I traveled last month I couldn't get into another country without first having a negative test and then I couldn't get back into my home country without having a negative test. That should be a norm right now but it hasn't been.

[–]MustyMustelidae 36 points37 points38 points  (1 child)

I don't know if people are just willingly ignoring the point or what...

If the travel ban is based on science it's not a punishment, but SA is saying that a travel ban as narrow as the current one is not based on science, it's based on politics.

That's because this variant has already spread to many other countries, SA was just the first in the region to sequence it due to their capabilities.


So essentially you have a situation where there should be bans worldwide, just like we had during the onset of COVID. But they're singled out because the narrative is that this is a Southern Africa variant, and that of course feels like a punishment to the region, not a sensible response.

Either use the science to support a widespread travel ban, or admit that your country is going to let transmission continue via travel (which we've seen happen as ridiculous as it sounds). Just don't make weird half measures to get points locally that unfairly target one country...

[–]Idea_list 72 points73 points74 points  (12 children)

Science has always said that selective travel restrictions do not work.

This is false. Travel bans may not be enough to STOP the virus all together does not mean they have no effect. With other words NIT HAVIGN ANY BANS on travel would definitely make things much worse.

If this variant has an evolutionary advantage over Delta, then it will be everywhere quite soon.

Yes but still this doesn't mean we should just give up open all the gates remove all the bans and let it spread even more quickly.

[–]Catch_022 786 points787 points788 points  (61 children)

South African here.

My issue is not the travel restrictions, it is that some people seem to want to blame South Africa for somehow creating the Delta and this new variant as well. I am 100% in favour of lockdown here in SA over Christmas.

SA didn't create covid-19, and it's very unlikely that we created the variants - however we have a really good research capacity for these types of diseases (we have been dealing with HIV/AIDS and TB for years) and our scientists are being transparent about their findings.

We are all suffering and I can't stand the way that some people blame South Africa for this pandemic.

[–]william_13 40 points41 points42 points  (0 children)

our scientists are being transparent about their findings.

This is what most people fail to understand here, as this is rarely the case. Even in Europe this type of information is usually dealt with at a government level first and not pre-published by researchers. Same thing in the US with the CDC.

The sad part is that this could lead SA to stop this open approach as it gets to be in the center of the storm with yet another variant it detected.

[–]jeremy1gray 16 points17 points18 points  (1 child)

God bless the South African scientists for transparently updating the world about their findings. Now if only we could get the Wuhan Virology Lab to co-operate..

The travel bans are a necessary evil. If the variant has already crossed to other nations and if it is more transmissible than Delta (as some reports are suggesting) then there is already no hope. But if it hasn't spread to the point of no return to other countries, there may still be hope for the rest of us to live a normal life.

The travel ban is a selfish, but necessary attempt by the rest of the world to resume their normal lives. Because Covid fatigue is real.

[+]ShenmeNamaeSollich 10 points11 points12 points  (0 children)

In a sense he’s right. It’s too late, and isolated, targeted travel bans are already pointless. Global travel bans and further lockdowns are an economic & political non-starter in most countries.

The cases outside Africa confirmed thus far include people from Belgium and Hong Kong who were nowhere near S. Africa, and dozens on flights from SA to the Netherlands who had allegedly tested negative only 24hrs prior. They’re already in these other countries, and have already been through crowded airports. Too late.

One HK man was fully vaccinated but tested positive w/an asymptomatic case on Day 4 of mandatory quarantine that would not have even happened in many places.

The other HKer traveled from/via Canada, so oh well ... it’s already in N. America - just hasn’t been detected yet.

The Belgian (young, unvaccinated dumbass girl) was only in Egypt & Turkey, so clearly it’s already getting around.

Travel bans are basically pointless political posturing by govts to appear to be doing something when they’re unwilling to do anything actually useful like mandate vaccines & masks & temporary lockdowns.

[–]Apotropoxy 59 points60 points61 points  (13 children)

This absurdity happened with Spain in 1918, too.

The only reason why the world started calling the great influenza pandemic the Spanish Flu was that the Spanish press made the pandemic public. The USA and the much of Europe was roiled in WW1 and the censors of the involved countries forbade mention of the plague. Spain, being neutral, had no such restriction.

BTW: The Spanish Flu originated in Kansas among GIs who were preparing to ship out to Europe. It was really the Kansas Flu.

[–]johnyj7657 3 points4 points5 points  (0 children)

I like how they cancel flights from africabut then say starting next week.

If your locking it down lock it down.

Don't give thousands of people the chance to leave, cause if someone was sick they would hide it to get that last flight out.