Headlines Health

Rescind ban on Nigeria over Omicron, FG tells Britain

Lai Mohammed, Boko Haram

*Says British Govt’s decision to put Nigeria on red list, unjust, punitive, discriminatory

*It’s apartheid to ban travellers over Omicron variant-Nigeria’s High commissioner to UK

*Lift travel ban on African countries, AfDB president urges western countries

Doosuur Iwambe with agency report

The Federal Government has called on the British Authority to immediately rescind its ban on foreign travels from Nigeria over the discovery of cases of Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the country.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the call in Abuja on Monday at a media briefing on the decision by Britain to put Nigeria on its Red list over the discovery.

The minister said the decision by the British government to put Nigeria on the red list, just because of less than two dozen cases of Omicron which did not originate in Nigeria, “is unjust, unfair, punitive, indefensible and discriminatory”

He said the decision is also not driven by science and should be rescinded immediately

“How do you slam this kind of discriminatory action on a country of 200 million people, just because of less than two dozen cases?

“Whereas British citizens and residents are allowed to come in from Nigeria, non-residents from the same country are banned.

“The two groups are coming from the same country, but being subjected to different conditions.

“Why won’t Britain allow people in both categories to come in, and be subjected to the same conditions of testing and quarantine?

“This is why this decision to ban travellers from Nigeria, who are neither citizens nor residents, is grossly discriminatory and punitive,” he said.

The minister noted that, travel ban, the type that had been slammed on some African countries, is “a knee-jerk reaction that could only be detrimental to our quest to most conclusively tackle this pandemic.

He said instead of a reflex response, driven by fear, rather than science, the world should take a serious look at the issue of access to vaccines.

Mohammed said access to vaccines should be based on the principles grounded in the right of every human to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health.

He said such right should be without discrimination on the basis of race, religion, political belief, economic or any other social condition.

“Many developed countries have used the advantage of their enormous resources or relationship to sign agreements with manufacturers to supply their countries with vaccines ahead of making them available for use by other countries.

“Even before the clinical trials were completed, millions of doses of the most promising vaccines have been bought by Britain, US, Japan and the EU.

“Some of these countries bought doses five times the size of their population, while others, mostly in Africa, have little or no access to vaccines.

“This is the real issue to address, instead of choosing the easy path of travel bans, which the UN Secretary General called Travel Apartheid. Let the world know that no one is safe until everyone is safe,” he said.

Mohammed said Nigeria had handled the COVID-19 pandemic with utmost responsibility, based on science, and rightly earned global accolades.

He said the country, therefore, did not deserve to be put on any country’s red list.

Also, speaking on a BBC radio programme on Monday, Nigeria’s high commissioner to the United Kingdom (UK), Sarafa Ishola, described the travel restrictions imposed on the country as “apartheid”.

The high commissioner said what is expected of the UK is a global approach and not a selective measure, adding that most Omicron cases in Nigeria came from elsewhere through travellers.

“The reaction in Nigeria is that of travel apartheid. Because Nigeria actually aligned with the position of the United Nations secretary-general that the travel ban is apartheid in the sense that we are dealing with an endemic situation, we are dealing with a pandemic situation and what is expected is a global approach, not selective,” he said.

Ishola said Omicron “is classified as a mild variant, no hospitalisation, no deaths, so the issue is quite different from the Delta variant”.

He added that the best way to tackle the issue should be collaborative.

“That’s why we in Nigeria believe that we are dealing with a pandemic. Whenever we have a challenge there must be collaboration,” he said.

Meanwhile, President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, says the travel ban on some African countries over Omicron, the new COVID-19 variant is “very unfair, non-scientific and discriminatory”.

Adesina, who said this through his verified twitter handle @akin_adesina, urged the western countries to lift the travel ban on the African countries

He queried why the travel ban was not placed on non-African countries where Omicron had also been found.

” Why single out African countries, singling out African countries is very unfair, nonscientific and discriminatory.

“Global vaccines and travel apartheid against Africa are endangering lives, hurting economies, lives, jobs and livelihoods from a pandemic Africa did not cause.

”End the apartheid. Respect Africa,” Adesina said.

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