Members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) have condemned the travel ban imposed on the country by authorities in Canada and the United Kingdom over the report of confirmed cases of omicron COVID-19 variant.
In a statement on Tuesday by NGF Chairman and Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, they described the action of both countries, as discriminatory and called for the intervention of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) wishes to draw the attention of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to the arbitrary stigmatisation that is caused by the recent banning of countries from visitation based on omicron spread,” said Governor Fayemi. “Only three cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus were detected in Nigeria less than a week ago, precisely on December 1st, 2021.
“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.”
According to the governors, omicron 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.
They stressed that it was very discouraging to note that several countries have reported cases of omicron with tallies similar to or higher than Nigeria’s, yet travellers there have not been banned from entering the UK and Canada.
Confirmed omicron cases across some countries as of December 3, the NGF stated, included 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,” said the governors. “It is ironical that this ban comes at a time when the DG of the WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus, has advised that ‘rational proportional risk reduction measures’ be taken by countries such as 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.
“We call on countries to be guided by science and fairness in setting the criteria for updating their red list. We encourage both public and private stakeholders to continue to support vaccination efforts and address hesitancy. We encourage 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 coronavirus 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,” the NGF added.