New Covid-19 Variant Could Stop Miss SA Travel To Israel

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Miss SA Lalela Mswane, who says she is preparing to travel to Israel to take part in the Miss Universe pageant despite dissenting voices, could be grounded by the new Covid-19 variant – Omnicron.

Israel’s top health officials have reported that a passenger returning from Malawi was diagnosed with the feared Omicron variant.

Scientists in South Africa announced on Thursday that they had detected a new Covid-19 variant they first named B.1.1.529, that has been renamed Omicron.

Within hours of the announcement, many countries in Europe and Asia, including the UK imposed a travel ban on people arriving from South Africa.

With more and more countries following suit, Mswane’s plans to travel to Israel for the Miss Universe pageant that is taking place in Eilat on12 December 2021 could be stymied.

The South African government, politicians, and other pro-Palestinian groups have called on the 24-year-old Miss SA to skip the Miss Universe pageant in Israel, citing that county’s ill-treatment of Palestinians.

However, Mswane who has a law degree from Pretoria University has issued a statement saying she is not backing down and will be travelling to Israel to participate in the Miss Universe pageant.

Commenting for the first time on the controversial matter. Mswane said: “It is with so much gratitude that I prepare to represent my beautiful South Africa at the 70th Miss Universe competition.”

Miss South Africa said her crown placed a huge responsibility on her and she was “determined to serve our country proudly in the best way that I can.”  

Mswane said, “I view my participation in the pageant as a unique opportunity to not only do just that but to also be part of, and hopefully contribute to, a process of dialogue and peace.”

The Miss SA organisers, who had previously said Mswane would not be bullied into quitting the Miss Universe pageant, said at the weekend: “Go share your sunshine with the rest of the universe,” adding, “we are behind you every step of the way.”

However, on Sunday Israeli media reported an imminent ban on foreigners from entering the country for 14 days, and the use of surveillance to halt the spread of the new Covid-19 strain feared to be more transmissible.

The BBC is reporting that the ban is expected to come into effect at midnight on Sunday, following full Cabinet approval.