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‘They feel like they’re being punished’: South Africans in London, Ont., frustrated with travel ban | CBC News

South Africans in London, Ont., worry that the new travel restrictions imposed on the region will affect the livelihoods of their friends and family back home. 

“They’re frustrated, and they feel like they’re being punished for a discovery that they made that benefits the rest of the world,” Nicole Kaniki, Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) in Research and Innovation at the University of Toronto, told CBC’s London Morning. 

Kaniki is a Londoner, born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. She says the country relies heavily on the revenue coming from travel and tourism, and is now also at risk of losing foreign investments, both of which can harm their economy. 

Canada, among other countries, imposed a travel ban to eight countries in Southern Africa after a new B.1.1.529 or omicron variant of concern was discovered by scientists in the region, last week. 

The variant has already made its way around the world, including Europe, and Australia. However, Kaniki points out, that travel to other countries is still allowed to resume. 

Businesses bracing for short supply

Ade and Yemi Taiwo are co-owners of Payless African & Caribbean Food Market in London, Ont. (Kate Dubinski/CBC)

Ade Taiwo is co-owner of Payless African and Caribbean Food Market, in London, Ont. She told CBC News that she is anticipating a shortage in food products imported from Africa. 

Her biggest concern is that her customers might not be so understanding as to why certain products aren’t available, and that will cause not only a decline in sales, but create a bad reputation for her store. 

“If a customer comes comes in and they’re not able to find the type of product they’re looking for, yeah that impacts the sales of course, and it also impacts the customer satisfaction,” she said. 

“They just think it’s the business’ inadequacy and don’t think outside the box about what might be going on.”

She says this leads to customers getting upset and leaving bad reviews, but all her team can do is explain to them why there are shortages or spikes in products and prices.  

‘Government response is reactionary, not evidence-based’

As an EDI expert, Kaniki believes that this ban has its roots in xenophobia, instead of logic, and the language used around it can target a certain group of people. 

She emphasizes that there is still very little known about the variant in terms of its transmissibility, and resistance to vaccines. 

“I think we’re all just really frustrated with the pandemic and often times I find decision making is based on those frustrations…we need someone to blame,” she said. 

“It’s very reactionary, I don’t see it as being evidence-based to be imposing a travel ban.”

She adds that the world has learned to live with COVID-19 and precautionary measures need to be upheld instead of a blind travel ban. 

“COVID is everywhere, whether it’s one variant or another, we’re just living with it now,” she said. 

Kaniki hopes that governments can make fair decisions because the implications of those decisions can be detrimental for certain economies.

London Morning6:31Impacts of the South Africa travel ban

Londoner Nicole Kaniki tells London Morning about the negative implications brought on by the South Africa travel ban following the discovery of the Omicron variant. 6:31

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