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SFA professor hopes South African travel ban is lifted soon

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 1:20 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 29, 2021 at 6:32 PM CST
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NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Travel bans to and from South Africa are interrupting plans for many Americans. A South African SFA professor is hopeful the omicron restrictions will be lifted in time for her to visit her mother at Christmas. Both women long to see each other.

“Mummy,” greeted Dr. Oliphant to her mother, Mona Oliphant on a cell phone call.

The calls are placed every day to her mom who lives in Pretoria, South Africa. But it’s not the hug both look forward to having.

“It may not happen. But it may happen. We just have to stay positive,” Dr. Oliphant told her mother.

Mona Oliphant is upset by the travel ban decisions that have received widespread criticism.

“Our country is trying our best to do the right things (for) all the people. (Then) They canceled all the flights. I think it’s not a good thing they did to South Africa. That is how I feel.”

Dr. Oliphant, now an American citizen, is proud of the South African scientific community. It’s commended for detecting Omicron and sharing it with the rest of the world. And very strict mandates are still enforced.

“There’s still a curfew in place. In fact, the mask mandate is still in place. And so South Africa did everything it could to address the impact of the virus,” said Dr. Oliphant.

Dr. Oliphant said as much as she’s looking forward to seeing her mother, she knows the health of others must be protected. She will accept the ban and decisions made by the World Health Organization.

In March of 2020 Dr. Oliphant was returning from South Africa when flights were canceled at the outbreak of coronavirus.

“A lot of stress and anxiety,” she recalled.

The trip home required careful planning by the American Embassy in South Africa and a travel agent in Nacogdoches. The emotions return for a daughter attempting to comfort an aging mother.

“We don’t know if this is the last time, she will see me. I’m 86 years old,” said Mona, while wiping a tear.

Her daughter offers reassurance.

“It will all work out. I’m going to see you again, mum.”

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