It has been a week since scientists in South Africa announced the identification of a new and unusual coronavirus variant.

Since then, in a panic-like action, numerous countries have not only introduced travel restrictions because of the Omikron variant or closed their borders to travelers from South Africa.

According to information from the FAZ, government representatives and scientists have also received threatening anonymous letters.

In it, the experts are threatened with consequences because of the early public announcement, as one would expect "in China".

The institutes involved in variant research have increased safety precautions.

Employees who feel at risk can request personal protection.

Claudia Bröll

Freelance Africa correspondent based in Cape Town.

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Most of the scientists in South Africa were praised for their achievements.

Users also expressed their pride and gratitude on social media.

At the same time, the outrage and incomprehension about the reactions abroad persist.

In a speech to the nation on Sunday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the travel ban on South Africans was a "clear and wholly unjustified deviation" from the commitments made by several countries at the G-20 meeting in Rome last month.

The restrictions are not based on scientific knowledge and are not effective in curbing the spread of the variant.

Guterres is "very concerned"

The Foreign Minister and representative of the African Union (AU) had made a similar statement earlier.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said he was "very concerned about the isolation of countries in southern Africa due to travel restrictions."

There had already been references to the new variant in other countries.

After the announcement, Germany has again put South Africa and seven other African countries on the list of variant areas.

Only German citizens and people with a place of residence in Germany are allowed to enter, but have to go into a 14-day quarantine, this also applies to those who have been vaccinated.

Although Omikron has now also been detected in many other countries, only the African countries are on the variant list.

Even after the beta variant was discovered earlier this year, South Africa and other African countries were classified as virus variant areas.

Only after protests from the economy were they downgraded at the end of July, and the quarantine requirement was no longer applicable.

At that time, the delta version had replaced the beta version for some time.

Meanwhile, concerns about the spread of the Omikron variant are also increasing in South Africa.

It is held responsible for the recent significant increase in the number of infections, albeit from a low level.

The government is currently refraining from further restrictions on public life.

The renewed ban on the sale of alcohol, feared by some, did not come into force either.

Recently, almost 3,000 new infections per day were counted, at the beginning of November there were still 300.

The seven-day incidence increased to 57.

The situation in South Africa's hospitals has largely relaxed so far, although some clinics in the Gauteng province fear that there will soon be a shortage of beds for Covid patients.

There is no longer any doubt that a fourth wave of infections has started in South Africa and other African countries.

Ramaphosa therefore brought up a general vaccination requirement in the speech.

A working group should deal with it.

Only about a quarter of the population is fully vaccinated, although more vaccine is available.

In South Africa, too, scientists are now trying to find out what protection the existing vaccines offer against the omicron variant.