Nigerians, mostly of the elite class, used to the luxury of spending their weekends in London and other parts of the United Kingdom (UK), were outraged, recently, when that former colonial master issued a statement in which Nigeria was added on its red list of nations not permitted to enter that country as a result of growing concerns over the outbreak of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
This came a few days after Canada extended its travel ban to travelers who recently visited Nigeria. Similarly, Saudi Arabia also slammed a travel ban on Nigeria for the same reason.
As is always the case with such matters that affect the upper class of the society, the federal government moved expeditiously and asked the United Kingdom to review that decision. It said the UK’s decision was “unfair, unjust, punitive and discriminatory because it does not follow the science.”
Similarly, governors of the 36 states of the federation, who have homes in those places and are about to be denied access to them, even if temporarily, have rejected the travel ban imposed on the country by the United Kingdom and Canada over concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus detected in Nigeria. The governors described the ban as “precipitated, unfair and discriminatory.” However, it is instructive to note that the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, had confirmed six cases of COVID-19 with the B.1.1.529 SARS-CoV-2 lineage, the Omicron variant, in Nigeria.
Not minding the personal interest of the elite class in the matter, this newspaper wholly endorses the position of the African Union (AU), which called for an urgent end to travel restrictions imposed on some of its member states, saying the measures effectively penalise governments for timely data sharing in line with international health regulations.
The AU said the measures act as a disincentive for information sharing in the future, potentially posing a threat to health security on the continent and globally. The union called for more emphasis to be put on the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines on the continent.
“Equitable access to vaccines is key to immunizing populations, controlling transmission of the virus, and preventing the emergence of new variants. International efforts should accordingly focus on increasing vaccination coverage on the continent.” This ought to be the line of argument because it sounds convincing.
In the considered opinion of this newspaper and from the standpoint of the AU, the travel ban is discriminatory and not science-based. Following the AU narrative, we observe that new Covid-19 cases in the United States climbed from an average of nearly 95,000 a day on Nov. 22 to almost 119,000 a day this week, and hospitalizations are up 25 percent from a month ago. According to reports, the increases are almost entirely from the delta variant, though omicron has been confirmed in at least 21 states.
From the foregoing, it appears the measure by the UK is not consistent with science and data. We insist that the rule should be applied evenly. If Portugal and United States with more cases were exempted from the ban, Africa in general and Nigeria, in particular, should also be removed from the list.
Besides, after many doomsday prophecies of the Covid -19 in Africa, the number of deaths in the continent is still very low compared to other continents. Also, despite the low number of vaccinations in the continent, the cases or death tolls are not rising in Africa as was predicted by arm chair scientists in the West.
We suggest that, instead of crying over the ban, the Nigerian government should use the opportunity to reassure its international partners of the measures being taken to stem the tide of the new variant. We call on the authorities to work hard enough to earn the lifting of the ban, especially, on Nigeria.
We also urge the government to step up enforcement of non-pharmaceutical methods like physical/ social distancing, use of face/nose masks, and use of hand sanitizers. Strict enforcement is key to stemming the spread of the virus in Nigeria.
Again, this brings to the fore the rampant cases of people in Nigeria presenting fake Covid test results and vaccination cards. We make bold to say that this is health terrorism. In a country where anything goes and the regulatory machinery is very weak, there are reported cases of people avoiding tests at the airports and not doing the mandatory quarantine.
Sadly, in our view, the number of vaccinated Nigerians is abysmally poor. In a country of over 200 million people, less than one million Nigerians have been vaccinated. The government must stop embarrassing itself by relying on vaccines donated by countries whose intentions are not genuine if the news of expired vaccines is anything to go by. We call on the government to step up vaccination efforts and this must include having a say in the quality of the vaccines. This can be possible when they pay for them.