Nigeria said last night that she won’t shut her borders to retaliate flight bans by four countries over Omicron fears.
After Canada banned travellers from Nigeria over Omicron fears, the UK, Indonesia and Hong Kong quickly followed suit.
Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said Nigeria will not engage in “knee-jerk” reactions like those other countries.
Instead, Nigeria will watch what scientists say about Omicron and without rushing to judgement, he said.
Consequently, there wont be “lockdowns, prohibitions and banning of flights or movement of people, until we know more.”
Doing these, Ehanire said, could prove more harmful to livelihoods and the economy than any perceived value of borders closures.
The Minister wondered at the panicky measures as both scientists and WHO have not classified Omicron as a deadly variant.
In addition, no death has been recorded worldwide as resulting from this latest Covid strain, he said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) currently classifies the Omicron strain as “a variant of concern.”
Ehanire recommended instead that countries come together to hammer out a common approach to manage the new discovery.
Fake Covid-19 certificates
Between them, the UK and Canada reported 23 cases of Nigerian passengers that tested positive to the Omicron variant.
Nigeria however published only three cases of the strain found nationwide to date.
While explaining this discrepancy, Ehanire said it is possible that some passengers may have been given fake test results.
The phenomenon of fake test results is however not peculiar to Nigeria, he explained, citing UK passengers as an example.
“Because of the very large volume of travellers from the UK, we also have the most positive COVID-19 virus coming from the UK too.”
On her own, the government of Nigeria does its best to tighten the “mechanism for spotting fake results and vaccination cards.”
Incoming passengers found with fake test results are quarantined, after which they are handed over to the police, Ehanire said.
A British overkill
In Abuja, High Commision officials yesterday justified Nigeria’s ban, citing cases of 21 Nigerian passengers who tested positive for Omicron.
The diplomatic aggression affects almost all forms of travel from Nigeria to Britain.
It includes flight bans from Nigeria and suspension of visa processing for all categories of travel “until travel bans are lifted.”
In a statement, the High Commission said UK is anxious “to protect public health from COVID-19 and associated variants of concern.”
The statement explained the nature of the wide-ranging ban thusly:
- “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.
- Also, applicants will not be refunded their visa fee if they have completed and submitted their biometrics.
- Those who hold a valid visit visa and are planning to travel to England from Nigeria “will not be allowed to enter.”
The UK however allowed “very limited exemptions” for “critical workers and medical and compassionate cases.”
Omicron: Nigeria won’t shut borders, Minister says