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Omicron variant: FG urges UK to rescind travel ban

The Federal Government has requested that the United Kingdom reconsider its decision to impose a travel ban on Nigerians due to the Omicron strain of the COVID-19.

Britain placed Nigeria on its red list of prohibited international travel, with less than 25 confirmed cases of the now considered highest virulent strain of the COVID-19 virus.

The decision is “unfair, unjust, punitive, and discriminatory and not based on scientific evidence, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed said on Monday, during a briefing in Abuja.

Britain has joined the ranks of other countries, notably Canada, in taking similar measures against Nigeria over Omicron, Alhaji Lai said.

He said the action was “discriminatory” to a country of 200 million people based on a few dozen cases, saying “British nationals and residents are permitted to enter Nigeria, non-residents of the same country are not.”

“The two groups come from the same country but are subjected to very different circumstances. Why won’t Britain allow persons in both categories to enter and be subjected to the same testing and quarantine procedures? As a result, the decision to bar Nigerians who are neither citizens nor residents is both discriminatory and punitive.”

The travel ban imposed on several African countries was a hasty reaction he said, echoing the same sentiment expressed by the World Health Organisation, where it said the action would erode global unity, and called for scientifically based decisions on the Omicron variant.

“Instead of these reflex responses based on fear rather than science, why can’t the world take a serious look at the issue of vaccine access and ensure that it is based on principles grounded in the right of every human to the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination based on race, religion, political belief, economic or any other social condition?”

Alhaji Lai said, “it is up to the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) to respond to the British government’s and others’ actions, and I have no doubt that the Committee will respond appropriately.”

In the meantime, the Committee PSC has reconsidered its International Travel Protocol on December 5 to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus: Passengers arriving in Nigeria are expected to present documentation of and adhere to the following rules, according to the amended protocol: A COVID-19 PCR test must be performed within 48 hours of departure; COVID-19 PCR test on Day 2 after arrival; 7 days of self-isolation (for unvaccinated and partially-vaccinated individuals); Exit PCR test on day 7 after arrival (for unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals).

Outbound travellers, on the other hand, are required to provide proof of complete COVID-19 vaccination and a negative PCR test result within 48 hours after boarding.

He said, “these are scientifically based activities, as opposed to those motivated by emotions or other reasons”, explaining further that Nigeria has managed the Covid-19 outbreak responsibly and scientifically and has won global acclaim and again asked that the British government reconsider and reverse the decision to place Nigeria on its red list.

Writing by Tina Oyinsan; Editing by Saadatu Albashir