Omicron Variant: FG asks UK to rescind ban on Nigerians

By AdvocateNews on 07/12/2021

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Lai Mohammed
Lai Mohammed

• Explains why Ramaphosa’s visit was not stopped

The Federal Government, on Monday, demanded that Britain rescind the ban imposed on Nigerian travellers over the Omicron variant of COVID-19, saying that putting the country on the red list is “unjust, unfair, divisive, indefensible and discriminatory.”

Addressing a press conference in his office in Abuja, the minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, wondered why residents who travel to Britain will be allowed into the country to quarantine and test while Nigerians are not allowed the same treatment.

He said it is wrong to impose such punishment on a population of 200 million people because of a few cases of Omicron variant that did not originate in the country.

While leaving the decision on whether to respond in kind to the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on Covid-19, Mohammed described the ban on African countries as a knee-jerk reaction which is capable of affecting the efforts to control the virus on the continent.

He said rather than ban countries, developed world should look critically into the issue of vaccine equity, noting “unless everyone is safe no one is safe,”

The minister added: “As you are aware, Britain has put Nigeria on its red list and banned foreign travels from our country. This is as a result of the discovery of Covid-19 cases, the Omicron variant, in Nigeria. Britain now joins other countries, including Canada, which have taken similar action against Nigeria over Omicron.

“Let me say straight away that it’s up to the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) to respond to this action by the British government and others, and I have no doubt that the Committee will respond appropriately.

“However, as the Spokesman for the Federal Government, I can say, without mincing words, that the decision by the British government to put Nigeria on the red list, just because of less than two dozen cases of Omicron which, by the way, did not originate in Nigeria, is unjust, unfair, punitive, indefensible and discriminatory. The decision is also not driven by science.

“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.

“Gentlemen, let me use this opportunity to highlight the fact that travel ban, the type that has been slammed on some African countries, is a knee-jerk reaction that can only be detrimental to our quest to most conclusively tackle this pandemic.

“Instead of these reflex responses that are driven by fear, rather than science, why can’t the world take a serious look at the issue of access to vaccines, and ensure that it is based on the principles grounded in the right of every human to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health 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 pointed out that in the wake of the discovery of the Omicron variant, the PSC reviewed its International travel protocol aimed at further reducing the risk of importation and exportation of COVID-19, especially the variants of concern

The minister affirmed that these are science-driven actions, rather than those based on emotions and other extraneous reasons.

According to him, “if any country is not satisfied with them, why not simply subject Nigerians arriving in their country to their own PCR tests and proven conditions, like quarantine, instead of banning them outrightly?”

He added: “We sincerely hope the British government will immediately review the decision to put Nigeria on its red list and rescind it immediately. Nigeria has handled the Covid-19 pandemic with utmost responsibility and based on science, and has rightly earned global accolades for its efforts. Nigeria does not belong on any country’s red list.”

Mohammed further alleged that some developed countries are discriminating against Africa because their projections of the extent of the coronavirus devastation on the continent did not materialise.

On the recent visit of the South African delegation led by President Cyril Ramaphosa to Nigeria despite South African having just confirmed the Omicron variant in the country, Mohammed said the visit was not stopped because the federal government did not want to act in hysteria and panic.

He said cancelling that South African delegation would have lent credence to Britain’s action on Nigeria.

The minister argued: “South Africa only had the fortune or misfortune of having an excellent research centre that was able to identify this variant. It was actually carried by foreign diplomats into Botswana.

“If the government panicked and had acted out of hysteria by postponing the South African president’s visit, it will be giving credence to exactly what is happening today.

“But the PSC considered it and said ‘no, as long as the proper protocol is observed, that the Omicron variant discovery in South Africa does not necessarily mean that we should postpone the visit of the South African president.’

“If we had done so, would we be justified today in challenging countries putting us on the red list?”

Posted 07/12/2021 08:13:33 AM


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