Omicron Crisis: Row Looms As Nigeria Asks UK To Reverse ‘Discriminatory’ Travel Ban ‘Immediately’

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..Ban Not Driven By Science 

A diplomatic row may be brewing between the Nigerian government and its United Kingdom counterpart as the former has asked the latter to “immediately” reverse the blanket travel ban it imposed on Nigerians due to the emergence of Omicron variant of the Covid-19 contagion, describing it as “unfair, unjust, punitive and discriminatory.”

The New Diplomat had on Saturday reported that the UK placed some countries including Nigeria on its red list over Omicron fears, noting that “only UK residents or citizens of the UK can enter the UK from Nigeria from that point onwards, and they would have to quarantine in one of the relevant hotels.”

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Sequel to the news which has continued to debilitate many Nigerian travellers, the British High Commission in Nigeria on Sunday also announced it has suspended decisions on the granting of visitor’s visa applications from all countries that have been placed on red list, which include Nigeria.

But on Monday, the Nigerian government protested the decision in strong terms asking the United Kingdom government, its largest trading partner and former colonial master to review the travel restrictions, stating it was not driven by science.

This was made known by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed at a briefing in Abuja on Monday. Mohammed insisted Nigeria till date does not belong on any country’s red list.

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The Minister pointed out to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson-led UK government that Nigeria has handled the Covid-19 pandemic with utmost responsibility and based on science, and has rightly earned global accolades for its efforts.

“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, Omicron variant, in Nigeria. Britain now joins other countries, including Canada, which have taken a similar action against Nigeria over Omicron.

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“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.

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“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.”

Meanwhile, the restrictions has left many UK-bound travellers stranded in the country as Omicron spread continues to affect international flight schedules just as Christmas festivities are kicking off globally.

This is as Canada has also introduced new guidelines, including the rejection of results of molecular COVID-19 tests done in Nigeria and nine other African countries.

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The U.S government on its own part had asked air passengers boarding a flight from a foreign country to any of its airports to get a compulsory COVID-19 viral test, regardless of vaccination status or citizenship, not more than one day before travel.

In Lagos and Abuja, scores of passengers who rushed to reschedule their flight on Sunday following the Saturday’s announcement by UK were disappointed and left stranded at the airports as the flights they had initially booked were overbooked, forcing airlines (majorly the British Airways) to give preference to those who had booked them first.

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The disruptive news has now forced many frustrated travellers, including holidaymakers to review their travel plans this yuletide.

Meanwhile, as revealed by Nigeria’s Information Minister, a major pronouncement is also being expected by the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, to respond to what he termed as “unjust” action by the British government and other western governments amid calls for some reciprocal actions. “I have no doubt that the Committee will respond appropriately.” Mohammed said.

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