African countries

Yes, it is racist to doubt PCR test results from African countries

Egypt and South Africa’s ban by Western countries on Covid-testing PCR barcodes has nothing to do with health concerns, but rather is part of mistrust historical xenophobic towards non-Western technology, writes Nyasha Bhobo.

In this photo illustration a TousAntiCovid app is seen on a smartphone with the EU flag in the background. It displays PCR and antigen tests, and also includes vaccination certificates. [Getty]

In November, while performing routine genetic sequencing of Covid-19 samples, South African scientists alerted the world to Omicron, a new infectious and rapidly mutating strain of Covid-19 that PCR tests were struggling to detect . Instead of winning global praise for world-class disease surveillance, in December travelers and planes from Egypt and South Africa were immediately banned to set foot in the European Union, Canada and other countries.

In typical Western colonial overzealous fashion, Canada de facto banned even Canadian citizens residing in Egypt and South Africa from returning home, and another ban on tourists from Egypt and South Africa. South still exist nowadays.

Canada and the EU, in particular, have announced that they do not trust the pre-boarding PCR tests carried out in Egypt and South Africa. Covid PCR test certificates performed in Egypt or South Africa contain an electronic barcode to authenticate the credibility of lab and test results, similar to standard PCR test certificates in Europe or the United States.

Nevertheless, Canada and the EU proclaimed that they did not trust anything.

“This Western digital distrust of barcoded PCR tests from Egypt and South Africa fits an established historical pattern – a xenophobic Western distrust of electronic systems from the Middle East and Africa”

Travelers coming to their territories from Egypt and South Africa must obtain certificates of barcoded PCR tests carried out in transit in Europe or any other “credible” Western country, as Canada has particularly demanded, further entrenching prejudiced views towards the Arab world and Africa. continent to new heights.

In the Canadian, US and EU worldview, there is endemic corruption in Egypt and South Africa such that digital barcode PCR test results are falsified, sold and bought on the street, allowing passengers infected with Covid-19 to board planes fraudulently.

This is nonsense because, in Canada itself, there is a wild species marketplace for fake vaccine and PCR test certificates with the criminal underworld actively positioning themselves for gain.

Moreover, Canada’s banning of Egypt and South Africa is a rather misguided position for two reasons.

First, by the time Canada banned Egypt and South Africa from sending passengers or planes to its shores, there were already hundreds of Omicron infections spreading rapidly through the UK, Poland, US and EU. Yet remarkably, before December 4, according to Khaleb Abdel Gaffah, the Egyptian Minister of Health, no cases of Omicron have been detected in Cairo. But Egypt has already been shoveled under Canada’s arbitrary entry ban and Egypt Airlines flights to Toronto remain frozen.

Second, as it tries to save face from its racism-tinged decision, Canada recently backed down from its ban on barcoded PCR tests from South Africa. Canada has reluctantly started to accept South African barcoded PCR test certificates, while the UK is reportedly seeking to remove its flight bans from South Africa.

This Western digital distrust of barcoded PCR tests from Egypt and South Africa fits an established historical pattern – a xenophobic Western distrust of electronic systems from the Middle East and Africa, whether they relate to banking, e-healthcare or immigration.

In the electronic eyes of Canada, USA, EU or other countries, chip passports or visas from Egypt or South Africa are not reliable, chip credit cards in from Egypt are probably fraudulent, barcodes on medicines in the Middle East or African pharmacies are probably counterfeits, etc.

Never mind that the Omicron variant was first detected in South Africa by African scientists when European and Canadian labs were probably asleep at the wheel. It doesn’t matter that Egypt is located 5,900 km from South Africa. Never mind that Egypt has a laudable track record of apprehending travelers with fake passports trying to pass through its Cairo International Airport.

As the New Arab reported in 2015, it was EU member Greece whose airports had no fingerprints or eyes to identify travelers; yet there are no plans to implement restrictions against Greece for its less digitized immigration products.

For people of Middle Eastern descent like Egyptians, this electronic mistrust on the part of Canadians like Canada has consequences of personal pain. Take the example of Mohamed Fahmythe Egyptian-Canadian journalist, who while working in Egypt was harshly jailed for just 400 days for Canada to refuse to issue him a new passport upon his release in 2015, rendering him essentially stateless.

“The phenomenon of fake barcoded digital products, like PCR tests, is not exclusive to the Arab world or the African continent; it also exists in places like the United States”

This Western xenophobic distrust of Middle Eastern and African electronic spaces and products motivates the deadly border, immigration, diplomatic and financial blockades that the Arab world and Africa have suffered over the past few years. 200 years, long before the advent of the Internet.

Thanks to the emergence of the Internet, colonial Western racist distrust of the Middle East and Africa has simply expanded into an electronic distrust of products and online spaces originating in the Middle -East and Africa.

The phenomenon of fake barcoded digital products like PCR tests is not exclusive to the Arab world or the African continent; it also exists in places like the United States, as illustrated by the scandal of NBA players using fake PCR certificates.

Nyasha Bhobo is a journalist and human rights activist. His work appears in Rest of World, Newsweek and Reuters.

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The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of his employer, or of The New Arab and its editorial board or staff.