The United Kingdom on Saturday night announced the imposition of a travel restriction on citizens of Nigeria following an increase in the number of cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 across the world. This was disclosed by the UK’s Secretary of State for Health, Sajid Javid, via his official Twitter account .
This is as analysis of data obtained from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control revealed a 76 per cent spike in the number of positive COVID-19 cases across the country.
Sunday PUNCH reports that the UK is the third country to impose a travel ban on Nigeria.
Meanwhile, Javid stated that UK and Irish citizens who will be traveling from Nigeria would be allowed into the country after quarantining for a certain period.
He tweeted, “In light of the most recent data, we are taking further action to slow the incursion of the Omicron variant. From 4am on Monday, only UK/Irish citizens and residents travelling from Nigeria will be allowed entry and must isolate in a managed quarantine facility.
“And from 4am on Tuesday, anyone travelling to the UK from countries not on the Red List will be required to take a pre-departure test, regardless of their vaccination status.
“Vaccines remain our first line of defence— the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones. Please get vaccinated or #GetBoosted as soon as you can.”
Recall that last week, Indonesia, slammed a travel ban on Nigeria following the discovery of the new strain of the virus.
The PUNCH also reported that Canada had placed Nigeria on a travel ban following the discovery of two cases of the Omicron variant which were linked to travellers from Nigeria.
The NCDC, on Wednesday, had announced the presence of the new variant in Nigeria.
According to the Director General of the centre, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, the cases were identified through the genomics sequencing of positive cases from travellers linked to South Africa.
Meanwhile, virology experts such as the Chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Professor Oyewale Tomori, have warned on looming travel bans on Nigeria.
Analysis of the COVID-19 daily updates obtained from the website of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has revealed that infection rates increased by 76 per cent in 24 hours.
On December 2, 2021, a total of 47 cases were reported across eight states of the Federation namely Plateau with 16 cases, Abuja with eight cases, Gombe with four cases, Kaduna with four, Edo with three, Kano with three, and Bauch with one, though no fatality was reported.
However, on December 3, the NCDC noted that a total of 196 cases were reported 24 hours later, representing a 76 per cent increase.
It noted that Lagos led with 138 cases, Rivers followed with 23 cases, Abuja with 18 cases, Imo with 15 cases, while Bauchi and Gombe had one case each.
The centre also noted that two deaths were reported.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Children Emergency Fund has allayed fears over the roll out of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine in Nigeria.
Sunday PUNCH reports that countries such as Canada, Denmark, United States of America and Slovenia had suspended the roll out of the vaccine, following incidences of blood clots.
Nigeria has so far received 4,567,200 doses of the J and J vaccine through the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team and Mastercard Foundation.
Even though the Federal Government is yet to deploy the vaccines, it noted that the doses would be deployed in security compromised, hard to reach and rural areas.
In an interview with our correspondent, the Country Health Manager for UNICEF, Asnakew Tsega, stated that the vaccines were safe for use.
He said, “Yes, the vaccine is safe. Countries such as Nigeria follow the recommendation of the World Health Organisation and the approval of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration. J and J has a WHO emergency listing and that is why Nigeria is receiving the vaccine.
“Countries may have reasons for suspending vaccines or drugs when they have found or suspected something in certain batches. The question could also be directed to NAFDAC.”
However, all efforts to get the reaction of NAFDAC’s spokesperson, Abubakar Jimoh, proved abortive as he failed to respond to inquiries sent to his phone, despite giving our correspondent the directive to do so.
How Buhari visited S’Africa despite COVID-19 surge
Despite advice by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control for Nigerians to reduce both foreign and local travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has continued to travel across the world along with his ministers, visiting eight countries in the last nine weeks.
Sunday PUNCH reports that barely days after Nigeria recorded the first case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, Buhari and some ministers travelled to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to attend the EXPO 2020 Dubai, with the theme, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’.
Between November 15 and November 21, the President was in Durban, South Africa, to attend the second Intra-African Trade Fair 2021.
He also visited Paris, Scotland, New York, Riyadh, Mecca and Addis Ababa in the last nine weeks.
On October 3, 2021, he departed Abuja for Addis Ababa to attend the inauguration of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, for a second five-year term in office.
Three weeks later, on October 25, 2021, the President went to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for an investment conference organised by the Future Investment Initiative Institute. Buhari and his delegation went on to perform the lesser Hajj in Mecca and pray for Nigeria on October 28 before returning to Abuja the next day.
Two days after returning from Saudi Arabia, the President travelled to Glasgow, Scotland, to attend a conference on climate change.
The NCDC had advised Nigerians to avoid non-essential travel during the pandemic even as many countries have begun shutting their borders and placing travel bans on citizens from select countries to curtail the spread of the virus, especially ahead of the Yuletide.
“Avoid travel to countries where there is a surge in COVID-19 cases or reported cases of the Omicron variant. Avoid all non-essential travel, both local and international. If you must travel, please adhere to travel protocols instituted by the PSC-COVID-19 which are in place to reduce the risk of importation of the virus or its variant into Nigeria,” the statement reads in part.
Sunday PUNCH, however, reports that the President visited South Africa between November 15 and 21, despite the fact that the country had started witnessing a spike in infections from November 10, based on information obtained from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa.
According to the World Health Organisation, Southern Africa has recorded a surge in cases, mostly driven by South Africa. It said in the last week of November, South Africa reported a 311 per cent increase in new cases.
Meanwhile, Singapore has become the third country after Canada and Indonesia to place a ban on Nigerians over the Omicron variant.
The Singaporean government said travellers who had been in Nigeria within 14 days from entering the country would not be granted access.
S’African President’s aides test positive after visiting Nigeria
There are fresh concerns following the positive test results of members of South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa’s security team who were said to have tested positive to COVID-19 upon their arrival in Nigeria.
According to South African news site, News24.com, two members of the President’s team were also said to have been evacuated from Nigeria following the declaration of their results.
Sunday PUNCH reports that there had been concerns about the visit of the South African President to Nigeria following the discovery of the newly discovered strain of the virus in his country.
Experts, including Prof Tomori, had warned that the trip should be postponed in line with the new strain of the virus.
Despite the concerns, the president, Major General Muhammadu Buhari(retd.), went ahead to receive Ramaphosa.
His spokesperson, Femi Adesina in a statement released after the meeting had then said the meeting had gone on well despite Omicron scares.