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Omicron: UK Govt’s red listing of Nigeria ill-advised – FG


*Says move will have multiple impacts on commerce, disrupt activities during Christmas, New Year festivities

*UK Govt suspends visitor visa applications’ processing from Nigeria

Doosuur Iwambe

The Federal Government, on Sunday, expressed disappointment over the United Kingdom government’s placement of Nigeria on its red list following the detection of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, describing the move as ill-advised.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, stated this during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, adding that the action will have multiple impacts on commerce, and disrupt activities during the Christmas and New Year festivities.

He said: “We were not very happy when six countries in Sub-Saharan Africa were placed on a red list and the WHO also advised against putting each on the red list.

“From what we know about the COVID-19, there are many ways to manage it, and besides, not much is still known about the Omicron variant. We know, for example, that there have been no fatalities.

“There have also been no reports of very severe illness. Actually, the rationale for being so hasty in putting countries on the red list is not something that is very helpful”.

According to the minister, the move was ill-advised as he noted that it would have multiple impacts on commerce, and disrupt activities during the Christmas and New Year festivities.

“It is going to disrupt commerce. It is going to disrupt family reunions,” he added.

He explained that while Nigeria has detected the COVID-19 virus on travellers from the UK, the cases have not been confirmed to be the Omicron variant.

While reiterating that the placement of countries on the red list will not help in the global fight against the pandemic, Ehanire said Nigeria is anticipating the fourth wave of the disease.

“If every country were going to put other countries on the ban list, very soon you would have a large number of countries on your red list.

“So, I do believe there are other ways of going about it. We in Nigeria do not regard banning flights and movements of people as particularly helpful and supportive,” the minister said.

The UK’s move, which came a few days after Nigeria detected the new strain, followed a similar decision by the Canadian authorities.

The minister also revealed that the Federal Government has spent at least $29 million to procure the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines in the country.

He said: “We have procured Johnson and Johnson, about 40 million doses, at about $29 million. The 40 million doses will come in stages. We have not requested that they be brought in bulk because we are going to be receiving them as we are dispensing them.

“In addition to that, we have received doses from partners, friends, and other countries all going through the Covax facility and the Covax facility collates all vaccines that other countries want to give to us.”

He equally reacted to the fears posed by the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, calling on countries to join hands to confront the new health challenge in the world.

When asked how deadly the Omicron variant is, Ehanire said it has not been classified as deadly.

This, to him, is because there has not been any case of fatality nor severe illness reported yet.

“Up till now, it cannot be classified as deadly because zero fatalities have been reported. No severe illness has been reported,” he explained.

“The United Kingdom has reported about 246, about 86 in the last 24 hours but they have not reported any fatalities or any severe illness.”

Meanwhile, the British High Commission has announced plans to suspend “making decisions” on visitor visa applications from all red list countries, including Nigeria.

The decision to suspend visa applications consideration was announced in a statement issued by the commission on Sunday.

The statement reads: “To support the UK Government’s aim to protect public health from COVID-19 and associated variants of concern (VOC), UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) will pause making decisions on visitor visa applications in all red list countries, including Nigeria, until travel restrictions are lifted.

“Visit visas cover travel to the UK for tourism, visiting family and friends, undertaking short-term business activities (for example, attending meetings), undertaking short-term studies (under 6 months), taking part in research or exchange programmes as an academic, medical reasons (for example, receiving private medical treatment).

“If you apply for a visit visa in a red list country and you meet the UK Immigration Rules, your application will be paused. You will not receive a decision on your visit visa application whilst red list travel restrictions remain in place.

“You will not be able to request a refund of your visa fee once you have given your biometrics at a Visa Application Centre (VAC). If you already hold a valid visit visa and are intending to travel to England as a visitor from a red list country, you will not be allowed to enter.

“There are only very limited exemptions to travel and entry requirements for critical workers and medical and compassionate cases.

“If you have submitted a visit visa application and you do not wish to withdraw, we will continue to hold your application. If you choose to continue with your visa application, you will not receive a decision on your visit visa whilst red list travel restrictions remain in place.”

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