The Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, Teodoro Locsin, Jr., denounced on Tuesday the “breathtaking stupidity” of travel bans imposed on African countries following the discovery of the Omicron variant of Chinese coronavirus in late November.
European countries, and then President Joe Biden, announced travel bans on citizens from South Africa, Botswana, and other nations in southern Africa after South African scientists alerted the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) that they had discovered a previously unknown variant of Chinese coronavirus.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and several other heads of state – as well as the head of the W.H.O. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres – have vocally denounced the Biden-style travel bans as “unscientific” and particularly useless in light of the revelation by the Netherlands and several other European countries that they have evidence the new Omicron variant was spreading in that region before it reached Africa.
Psaki Tries to Defend Biden's Travel Ban After He Called Trump's Ban "Hysterical Xenophobia" pic.twitter.com/WirYnW2JAJ
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) November 29, 2021
As a presidential candidate, Biden accused President Donald Trump of “hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering” for travel bans on China and other key countries, including some in Africa, during the early days of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic. In November, Biden justified similar travel bans as a “precautionary measure” against the new variant.
The Biden administration has not added European countries where Omicron appeared prior to its discovery in Africa to its travel ban, nor has it rescinded the bans on African countries.
Locsin, who serves as the top diplomat for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, lambasted the travel bans as “a move of breathtaking stupidity and self-destruction” on Twitter following a meeting with the president of the U.N. General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid.
“In a move of breathtaking stupidity and self-destruction, the rest of the world’s response to South Africa’s revelation of a new variant was a global ban on and interdiction of South Africa,” Locsin wrote. “That teaches other countries the price of honesty for the global good; better to hide something that endangers the rest of mankind since revealing it will only hurt you.”
“Unbelievable,” he concluded. “We are going to Hell in a hand basket.”
2 teaches other countries the price of honesty for the global good; better to hide something that endangers the rest of mankind since revealing it will only hurt you. Unbelievable. We are all going to hell in a hand basket.
— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) December 8, 2021
Locsin omitted from his Twitter rant that the Philippines immediately enacted a travel ban on South Africa – as well as Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique – in late November after the W.H.O. branded Omicron a “variant of concern.” Unlike the Biden administration, however, Duterte expanded his travel bans to include European countries like the Netherlands, Hungary, Belgium, and Switzerland following news that Omicron had been circulating on the continent before it was found in Africa.
The Philippines added France to its ban list on Wednesday.
Rodrigo Duterte has openly expressed racist sentiments about “white people” on multiple occasions, usually in response to human rights groups questioning his violent policies to subdue drug crime.
“The problem with these white people, these American blockheads, is that for every five Americans, three out of five are idiots, and only two are in their right minds,” Duterte railed in 2016.
On another occasion in 2019, Duterte declared, “the whites really have no shame” in response to Icelandic complaints that he was violating human rights.
“Iceland allows the slaughter of the fetus inside the womb of the mother up to 6 months. Putang ina nila (Son of a bitch),” Duterte said. “Iceland doesn’t eat anything except for ice. The whites really have no shame and yet they teach me what to do.”
Duterte has also blamed “white Arabs” for bringing the Islamic State into the country, despite the prior existence of radical Islamic groups like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Like Duterte, Locsin has developed a reputation for belligerent, and sometimes violent, statements. Last year, Twitter locked his prolific account after he published a post reading in part, “These are fucking Communists. You shoot them. You don’t listen to them.”
In May, in response to the Communist Party of China repeatedly violating Philippine sovereignty for much of the past decade, he wrote, “China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see… O… GET THE FUCK OUT.”
Locsin’s outrage this time aligns with the sentiments of much of Africa. Ramaphosa, the South African president, called the Biden-style travel bans “a slap in the face of African excellence” last week because they limit the freedom of citizens of the country that had experts talented enough to identify the variant.
“The imposition of travel bans on South Africa and a number of countries in the southern African region are regrettable, unfair and unscientific,” Ramaphosa asserted. Ramaphosa began a tour of western Africa last week intended to, in part, physically show that allowing South Africans into a country was safe and beneficial. Leaders of Ghana, Nigeria, and Cote d’Ivoire stood in solidarity with South Africa against the bans.
The president of Malawi, Lazarus Chakwera, accused the leaders of countries implementing the travel ban of “Afrophobia.”
In Ghana, the state-run Ghanaian Times accused Western countries “mak[ing] Africa their whipping boy” with the bans.
“Were they not their own medical scientists who said vaccination had the efficacy to contain COVID-19 and all its variants?” an editorial in the newspaper asked. “Why do the West and their cohorts make Africa their whipping boy in almost all bad situations that affect the world?”
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the bans as “travel apartheid.”