Abiodun OBA

The recent travel ban imposed on Nigeria and some African countries by the United Kingdom and Canada has been described as arbitrary stigmatisation.

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), in a statement signed by the chairman of the Forum, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State on Tuesday, said the decision by Canada and UK to hastily include Nigeria among the omicron present countries is unfair and discriminatory.

The NGF said omicron still remains relatively unknown globally as it is not yet clear whether it is more transmissible from person to person compared to other variants including delta.

It said a few other countries that have reported cases of omicron similar to or higher than Nigeria’s, have not been banned from entry to the UK and Canada.

“Confirmed Omicron cases as at December 3, across some countries are: Nigeria (3); Australia (7); Brazil (3); Germany (9) Israel (4); Italy (9) & Netherlands (16). There is also no evidence that harsh, blanket travel bans will protect the countries that impose them.

“It is ironical that this ban comes at a time when the DG of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Ghebreyesus, has advised that “rational proportional risk reduction measures” be taken by countries such as screening passengers prior to departure and/or upon arrival in a country, or enforcing a quarantine period,” part of the statement read.

The NGF urged the WHO to intervene by setting uniform standards that are acceptable to all for banning countries across the globe.

This is because vaccine hesitancy is quite high and for many reasons including disruptive announcements as such, could exacerbate distrust of the vaccine and heighten hesitancy.

“World leaders and stakeholders in the West need to remember that with the COVID-19 pandemic, until everyone is free, no one is free. Variants will continue to appear and spread across the globe as long as global herd immunity has not been achieved.

“We call on countries to be guided by science and fairness in setting the criteria for updating their red list. We encourage both public and private stakeholders to continue to support vaccination efforts and address hesitancy. We encourage Nigerians not to be discouraged and to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” the statement further said.

The NGF’s condemnation comes barely hours after the Senate called on the British Government to consider removing Nigeria from its red list.

The Nigerian government had also rejected the travel ban, describing it as “Kneel-jerk, apartheid, discriminatory, punitive, unfair, indefensible and unscientific.”

Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, who spoke on behalf of the government, asked the British government to immediately review the decision.

Many African leaders, and the World Health Organisation, have also frowned at the travel ban on African countries as the variant, they said, has been detected in many parts of the world.

Major vaccine powers like Britain, Canada, America, and the European Union were also called upon to take urgent and bold steps to ensure vaccine equity in the best interest of the entire human race.

The UK had on Saturday announced that travellers from Nigeria would not be permitted to enter the United Kingdom from 6 December, due to the growing concerns over an outbreak of the omicron variant of coronavirus.

The announcement was made a few days after Canada extended its travel ban to travellers who recently visited Nigeria.

The British High Commission has also paused the issuance of visitor’s visas to citizens of countries on the United Kingdom red list, including Nigeria – until the travel ban is lifted.

As of Tuesday afternoon, only six cases of the micron variant of the COVID-19 have been detected in Nigeria.

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