Omicron travel ban: Nigerian governors beg WHO to intervene

By Emmanuel Oloniruha

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has rejected the travel ban placed on Nigeria by Canada and UK over Omicron variant, describing it as precipitate, unfair and discriminatory.

The forum stated this in a statement in Abuja by its Chairman, Gov. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti.

The governors drew the attention of the World Health Organization (WHO) to the arbitrary stigmatisation that is caused by the recent banning of countries from visitation based on omicron spread.

“Only three cases of the Omicron variant of the Corona virus were detected in Nigeria less than a week ago, precisely on Dec. 1.

“Canada and the United Kingdom have hastily included Nigeria among the Omicron present countries which must stay away from their shores, an action viewed by the NGF as precipitate, unfair and discriminatory.

“Omicron still remains relatively unknown globally as it is not yet clear whether it is more transmissible from person to person compared to other variants including Delta,” it stated.

According to NGF, it is very discouraging to note that there are several countries that have reported cases of Omicron similar to or higher than Nigeria’s, that have not been banned from entry to the UK and/Canada.

“Confirmed Omicron cases as at Dec. 3, across some countries are: Nigeria (three ); Australia (seven); Brazil (three); Germany (nine) Israel(four); Italy (nine) and Netherlands(16).

“There is also no evidence that harsh, blanket travel bans will protect the countries that impose them,” it stated.

The forum said it was ironical that the ban came at a time when the Director General of the WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus, advised that “rational proportional risk reduction measures” be taken by countries.

The NGF listed the measures given by Ghebreyesus to include screening passengers prior to departure and/or upon arrival in a country, or enforcing a quarantine period.

“The NGF therefore urges the WHO to intervene in this matter by setting uniform standards that are acceptable to all for banning countries across the globe.

“As we know, vaccine hesitancy is quite high and for many reasons including disruptive announcements like this which could exacerbate distrust of the vaccine and heighten hesitancy.

“World leaders and stakeholders in the West need to remember that with the COVID-19 pandemic, until everyone is free, no one is free.

“Variants will continue to appear and spread across the globe as long as global herd immunity has not been achieved.,” he said.

The governors called on countries to be guided by science and fairness in setting the criteria for updating their red list.

The NGF also encouraged both public and private stakeholders to continue to support vaccination efforts and address hesitancy.

The forum encouraged Nigerians not to be discouraged and to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“As a platform for the 36 democratically elected governors of the country, the NGF believes it reserves the right to speak for its people.

“Besides, the NGF was proactive and ahead in the Polio eradication program in Nigeria, in the country’s response to the Ebola virus, and lately in the response against the corona virus pandemic.

“Finally, health is one of the core mandate areas of the NGF and has remained an item on its meeting agenda in the past several months.”

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