• Tue. Jan 11th, 2022

COVID-19: Omicron variant’s effect on Nigeria’ positive or negative?

COVID-19: Omicron variants effect on Nigera, positive or negative?

In retaliation for including Nigeria on their Covid-19 Red list, the Federal Government plans to add the United Kingdom and a couple others to Nigeria’s Covid-19 Red list countries.

Over the weekend, it was revealed that the Nigerian government intends to add the United Kingdom, Argentina, Canada, and Saudi Arabia to the red list in retaliation.

The news that the UK had placed Nigeria and other African countries on a travel ban due to the Omicron variant sparked global outrage, with some national and international stakeholders calling it racist and discriminatory. The United Kingdom had imposed travel restrictions on Nigeria, claiming that 21 cases of Omicron were linked to Nigerian travelers.

By the end of November, scientists had discovered what is now known as the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus. Since its emergence in December 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant harm to humanity. However, many variants of the virus have been discovered ever since, which makes many believe that the virus is her to stay. The latest discovery of the Omicron variant has added to the society’s challenges, as the threat of travel restrictions and associated inconveniences persists.

Nigeria joined the growing list of countries that have recorded cases of the Omicron variant, also known as the B.1.1.529 lineage, just days after the news of the variant broke, confirming the discovery of three additional Omicron variant cases. Ifedayo Adetifa, Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), who made the announcement, stated that the new cases were discovered in people who had recently traveled to South Africa. Adetifa also stated that the Nigerian government has been notified by the government of the United Kingdom (UK) of seven cases of Omicron variant detected in Nigerian travelers via the NCDC.

Following the discovery of the variant, top Western countries imposed travel bans on countries, particularly African countries such as Nigeria. The most recent, and by far the most concerning to Nigeria, is the one imposed by the United Kingdom on Nigerian travelers. The UK announced last Monday, December 6, that Nigerian travelers would be denied entry into the country. This comes just a few days after Canada extended its travel ban to people who had recently visited Nigeria.

Nigeria became the 11th country to be placed on the United Kingdom’s Red List for international travel. All of the countries currently on that list are African. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that blanket travel bans will not stop the spread of the variant and may discourage countries from reporting and sharing vital Coronavirus data.

Many Nigerians reacted angrily to the news that their country had been added to the Red List by the United Kingdom, describing it as “travel apartheid.” The Federal Government had condemned the UK decision, with Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, describing it as discriminatory, unfair, punitive, indefensible, and unjust. Last Tuesday, lawmakers in both chambers of the National Assembly expressed their displeasure with the UK’s decision in plenary. The Senate, for its part, insisted that the travel ban was discriminatory and an attack on diplomatic relations between the two countries, and urged British authorities to reconsider removing Nigeria from the Red List.

Furthermore, the Senate advised the UK government to be mindful of the bilateral diplomatic relationship when making decisions affecting Nigerian citizens.

It urged the Federal Government to work with British authorities to have Nigeria removed from the Red List. The Upper Chamber also charged the administration with remaining steadfast in enforcing necessary protocols for the containment of all COVID-19 variants in Nigeria.

During the House of Representatives’ debate on the issue, members were sharply divided. While some members thought the UK government’s decision against Nigerians was harsh and racist, others thought it was a wake-up call to the government and those in power to fix the country, particularly the health and education sectors.

In a leaked voice note, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, stated that the decision to ban these countries in retaliation would be made by the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 latest by Tuesday.
“Also, there is a case of Saudi Arabia, which put Nigeria on the banned list – no visa, no travel, et cetra. So also Canada. So, today, there was a meeting, I participated in a Zoom meeting, COVID-19 task force, just for your information also. We have given our input in aviation, it is not acceptable by us and we recommend that those countries – Canada, the UK, Saudi Arabia, and Argentina be also put on Red List, as they did similarly to us.

“If they don’t allow our citizens to go into their countries who are their airlines coming to pick from our country? So, I am very sure that in the next few days, between now and Monday, or perhaps Tuesday, at maximum, all those countries will be put on the Red List from the PSC (Presidential Steering Committee) from the task force of COVID-19. Once they are put on the Red List, which means they are banned, of course, their airlines will be banned. I’m so sorry, we are going through a difficult moment, but we have to do it in the interest of our country,” Sirika explained.

However, the British High Commission on Sunday said the United Kingdom would not reverse its travel ban on Nigeria because of a threat of retaliation by the Federal Government.

The spokesman for the British High Commission, Dean Hurlock, said this in response to a statement by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, that the UK, Canada and Saudi Arabia would be put on Nigeria’s travel ban on Tuesday.

Hurlock stated that Britain had made it clear that travel abroad would be different this year, adding that the UK was sticking to its “standard background lines.”

Could this put an end to the diplomatic relationship between Nigeria and the United Kingdom?

Is the inclusion of Nigeria to UK and other countries a good or a bad thing?

Note that during their debate on the issue of the ban placed on Nigeria, some of the members of the house of rep believed that it was a wake-up call on the government and those in authority to fix the country.

During the conversation, Hon. Onofiok Luke questioned why various countries have recently treated Nigeria poorly. As a result, he has called for the repair of Nigeria’s infrastructure in order to halt the mass exodus of Nigerians abroad. He also advocated for an immediate inward turn so that Nigeria could truly develop.

Hon. Toby Okechukwu, Deputy Minority Leader, called for the development of a proper protocol to deal with pandemics. He bemoaned the economic loss that those who had already made travel plans would face if they were denied entry without a refund. Okechukwu emphasized the importance of proper research in order for Nigeria to produce indigenous vaccines for these infectious diseases and their variants.

Have those in authority finally began to realize that our country can be made better instead of total dependence on outside countries?
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