Last week, South African scientists alerted the world that they had discovered a new COVID-19 variant, known as omicron, which was responsible for a recent spike in infections in the country. The response has been a scramble across the world as governments–still dealing with the impact of the delta variant–changed policies to adapt to the threat posed by omicron.
In the United States, this included a travel ban implemented almost immediately against South Africa and several other countries. The move prompted criticism from South African authorities and divided many public health experts – some finding the ban to be punitive, others prudent. PBS NewsHour’s Kenichi Serino spoke with leading South African epidemiologist, Professor Salim Abdool Karim about how news of this latest variant was handled by the U.S. and what it could mean for the international public health community. Karim served as South Africa’s co-chair to it’s Ministerial Advisory Committee–a body of public health experts advising government on its response to the COVID-19 pandemic and became a widely-recognized figure in giving the South African public information on the pandemic and advice on how to protect themselves.
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