The United Kingdom included Nigeria on its travel “red list” over the weekend, which means that entry into the country will be prohibited except for residents of the United Kingdom and Ireland.
On Monday, a Nigerian official criticized the British government’s travel ban on West African countries for fear that the new Omicron coronavirus variant would be “punishing, untenable and discriminatory.”
Health Minister Sajid Javid added Nigeria to Britain’s travel “red list” on Saturday, which means that entry into the country will be prohibited except for residents of the United Kingdom and Ireland. He said that a “large number” of Omicron cases were related to travel in Nigeria, with 27 recorded in England.
However, the Nigerian authorities stated that they have not reported any new Omicron cases in the country since they announced on December 1 that they had found three cases among travelers arriving from South Africa.
Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Lai Mohamed, told reporters that the UK’s travel ban was “not driven by science” and was “unjust, unfair, punitive, untenable and discriminatory”.
“Rather than these reflexes driven by fear rather than science. Why can’t the world take the issue of access to vaccines seriously and ensure that it is based on the principle that everyone is entitled to the highest attainable standard of health, without being racially or religiously discriminated against? , Political beliefs, economics or any other social conditions,” Mohammed said.
Nigerian Health Minister Osagie Ehanire told the Associated Press that Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and currently does not consider imposing a travel ban on any country. Instead, it focuses on enhanced surveillance and testing because it aims to “balance saving lives and saving livelihoods.”
So far, only about 3.78 million of the 206 million people in Nigeria have been vaccinated. But Einahir said that the situation in the country was under control, adding that the government was able to obtain 100 million doses of vaccine. Last week, Nigeria also approved a booster for fully vaccinated people.
Since the discovery of the first batch of new variant cases, the number of newly confirmed cases has been very low, with an average of 80 cases per day.
Ehanire called the travel ban an “extreme step” and the Nigerian authorities will not take such measures now. “Because we know that the virus will spread around in some way, we will do everything we can to ensure that the rate at which operators enter our country is reduced.”
Nigeria requires inbound passengers to undergo RT-PCR testing for COVID-19 within 48 hours before departure, another test the next day after arrival and self-quarantine for 7 days. If the vaccine is not fully vaccinated, a third test will be conducted.
Nigeria’s mass vaccination plan is gradually gaining momentum as the country’s goal is to fully vaccinate 55 million people in the next two months. The Minister of Health said Nigeria is also seeking to produce a COVID-19 vaccine locally funded by government funds and investors.
“We are ready, we are willing, and we also know that when you make such an investment, Nigeria usually considers the needs of West Africa as a whole,” he said.