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28 Nov, 2021 12:27

‘Shame on you’: South Africa’s been ‘canceled’ over new Covid variant, claims cricketer

‘Shame on you’: South Africa’s been ‘canceled’ over new Covid variant, claims cricketer

A South African-born former England captain has issued a tirade against media coverage of the Omicron Covid variant, suggesting that there is no evidence it evades vaccines and his birthplace will fully reopen soon.

Outspoken Kevin Pietersen is clearly furious at what he perceives as the unbalanced media reaction to the new variant, which is causing global alarm and has led to countries including England enforcing new restrictions.

The former Nottinghamshire and Hampshire star described himself as "f*cking fuming" over a report which claimed that Covid vaccines would be made less effective by the variant and quoted Sajid Javid, the UK's Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, as saying that scientists are "deeply concerned".

Formidable batsman Pietersen used his Twitter account, which has more than 3.8 million followers, to a highlight an interview given by Dr Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, a board member of Africa Union's African Vaccine Delivery Alliance.

Olatunbosun-Alakija endorsed African vaccination and said that the west had hoarded vaccines, as well as calling for greater unity among leaders in Africa.

The legendary batsman then echoed an uncredited post taking aim at "idiot journalists" and claiming that South Africa, which has been placed under travel restrictions by some countries over fears that the variant originated there, has "one of the most sophisticated and advanced infectious diseases infrastructure on the planet."

"We've had to develop these capabilities to deal with TB and AIDS and other diseases ravaging our continent," the post said.

"It is no surprise that our medical system is the first in the world to identify new Covid variants. It is no surprise that we led the world in clinical trials of vaccines.

"What is a surprise is how lazy journalists write headlines: 'New Covid variant in South Africa'.

"No, this new Covid variant has been found in New Zealand, England, Brazil, France, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and other places.

"South African scientists isolated, sequenced and understood it first. Report that fact, but don't start all over again with putting 'South Africa is unsafe' into people's heads.'"

Pietersen is clearly unimpressed with the travel bans placed on South Africa. "You literally cannot book anywhere now, knowing the government can ban flights in 24 hours," he said.

"Tourism contributes 9.5 percent to South Africa's GDP. It’s the second largest economic sector after mining.

"I pray, for all my friends' sakes and for all bio-diversity, that in a couple of weeks, after all the data has been looked at, South Africa opens fully.

"Canceling South Africa has caused many a drama. Be strong, South African tourism industry."

The 41-year-old, who was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to cricket in 2006, responded to a press release by the Permanent Secretary of Botswana saying that the new variant was detected in four foreign nationals who entered the country on November 7.

"The plot thickens," retorted Pietersen, appearing to suggest that Omicron did not originate in South Africa.

He took exception to "negative journalists" who asked British prime minister Boris Johnson about new rules including compulsory mask-wearing on Saturday, and told a vaccine researcher who claimed that the variant results in only 'mild disease without prominent symptoms': "Wonderful factual reporting.

"Thank you. One wishes you were breaking the news in the mainstream media."

Johnson spoke to South African president Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday after it emerged that the virus has been detected in numerous countries.

"They discussed the challenges posed globally by the new Covid variant and ways to work together to deal with it and reopen international travel," read a British government press release.

"The prime minister commended South Africa’s rapid genomic sequencing and leadership in transparently sharing scientific data."

Pietersen told Johnson and Javid: "Shame on you. There's no furlough scheme in South Africa, so just think of the tourism industry that provides for millions of families there.

"Bookings were amazing and in a day they’re all gone. Think of their Christmas. Think of those children."

When a critic suggested that Pietersen's posts had been motivated by business, he hit back that they should "f right off".

"This doesn’t affect me or anything I do or my business in South Africa," he raged.

"My tweet is only about all my friends in the industry and their families that are reeling."

He earlier urged the golf DP World Tour to "sort out the ticking time bomb of player loyalty" by organizing chartered jets to transport UK-based players home from South Africa immediately.