Scientists in South Africa have received death threats from people accusing them of “creating new variants” prompting the government to publicly condemn those behind the intimidation.
Last month scientists in South Africa were the first to detect the new Covid-19 variant – Omicron.
Commenting on the threats this week, the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) said, “it has noted with concern the numerous media reports of leading scientists and researchers coming under attack from members of the public.”
The DSI said, “it deplores intimidation of scientific community”, adding: “The work of scientists in conducting research and sharing this knowledge is vital for saving lives and trying to bring an end to the pandemic”.
Worldwide, more than five million people have died of Covid-19.
As many as seven scientists have reported receiving death threats from unknown persons blaming them for the Omicron variant.
The DSI called on the public “to support members of the scientific community for the sterling work they have been doing since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2019 – and not to vilify, threaten or seek to intimidate them”.
As the deadly virus continues to mutate and spread throughout the country and the world, the value of scientific research in tackling the virus head-on cannot be overstated, said the department.
“The only way to contain Covid-19 is through establishing accurate scientific facts and communicating this information on a regular basis,” said the DSI.
“South African scientists have been at the forefront of the global battle against Covid-19, working tirelessly to ensure that populations not only in South Africa but in the rest of Africa and the world over are safe.
“Twice already, first with the Beta variant and more recently with Omicron, South African scientists have been the first to discover new mutations of the virus.”
The DSi said it is through scientific research that vaccines have been successfully developed and manufactured.
“These vaccines have proven to be safe and largely effective in preventing Covid-19 fatalities. Being vaccinated also reduces your risk of serious infection if you do contract Covid-19, and may also protect your loved ones and others around you, particularly people at increased risk of severe illness from Covid-19,” said the DSI.
“It should also be stressed that, once you are fully vaccinated for Covid-19, you may be able to resume some of the activities you had to stop due to the pandemic.
“For example, you can spend time with larger groups of friends, family, and loved ones who are also fully vaccinated.”
The DSI said it has been supporting the scientific community to help the government respond to the pandemic to make sure that our people are safe.
“As a department, we have provided funding for genomic surveillance that enables scientists to detect new variants, and supported biotechnology companies to manufacture test kits locally instead of relying on imports, which are in short supply globally,” said DSI.
“More importantly, the department is investing in scientific infrastructure to ensure that, as a country and continent, we are able to manufacture our own vaccines.”