The head of the World Health Organisation has condemned a Spanish newspaper’s cartoon that appeared to liken the spread of the Omicron variant to migrants arriving on the shores of the EU.
The drawing by the La Tribuna de Albacete depicts a number of black figures aboard a boat with “Omicron” written on it and a South African flag heading for EU territory.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “It pains me that shows of racism like this still plague the challenges facing the world today.
“Caricaturing people crammed in a boat bringing a virus to Europe is disgusting.”
He added: “We can only advance” as a global community “by promoting solidarity, not stigma”.
The Omicron variant, which may be more resistant to the current offering of Covid-19 vaccines, was first detected in South Africa. Many nations around the world have since restricted or imposed tighter entry requirements on arrivals from southern Africa.
The Tribuna and cartoonist responsible have since apologised “to any readers who may have felt annoyed or offended by the aforementioned publication”.
Dr Tedros has repeatedly condemned vaccine inequity that has seen the developing world with low vaccination rates when large chunks of the populations of wealthy countries are fully inoculated.
He has also expressed his disappointment at the travel restrictions that have been levied against countries in southern Africa.