Nigeria has become the 11th country to go on the UK’s red list for international travel.
The British High Commission in a statement said, “To support the UK Government’s aim to protect public health from COVID-19 and associated variants of concern (VOC), UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) will pause making decisions on visitor visa applications in all red list countries, including Nigeria until travel restrictions are lifted”.
According to the Head of Communications, British High Commission, Dean Hurlock “These are temporary measures that have been introduced to prevent further Omicron cases from entering the UK, and will be examined at a review point on December 20.”
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What is a Red list?
This list is basically that of countries that cannot enter the UK due to the Omicron variant of Covid-19 first identified in southern Africa. For now only UK or Irish nationals or UK residents can enter the UK from these countries. Hotel quarantine is required for arrivals from red-list countries for a period of 10 days. This isolation is done at the expense of the traveler and in a pre-booked government-approved hotel.
These countries, which are currently only African countries, are South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, and the latest addition, Nigeria.
What factors are considered when deciding on the UK’s travel list?
The risk assessment criteria were developed by a body called the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC). According to the information available on its official website, JBC ‘provides evidence-based, objective analysis to inform local and national decision-making in response to COVID-19 outbreaks’. It examines more than 250 countries and presents its findings to the government for final decisions.
The risk assessment for countries includes:
- The standard of infrastructures and systems put in place for testing and checking for variants
- The number of cases identified
- Whether the cases have originated from overseas or people there have caught new variants
- Does it export cases of new variants to other countries, including the UK
- The access to travel links with the UK
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What is the reason behind Nigeria’s inclusion?
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has so far announced only three cases of Omicron in the country. These cases were, however, detected in recent travelers to South Africa. According to the UK statement announcing Nigeria’s inclusion on the red list, the “vast majority” of Omicron variant cases in the UK are linked to travel from South Africa and Nigeria. Nigeria also has strong travel links to South Africa, where the variant was first detected. In addition, the country is testing for the virus at a lower rate and has less developed infrastructures.
What are Nigerians saying about the ban?
The travel ban slammed on Nigeria by the United Kingdom has been trailed by widespread reactions.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, called the travel ban discriminatory in a press conference.
He said, “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”
“If somebody who is a Nigerian but holds a British passport is allowed to enter Britain, he is as risky as I am. Is it the passport that now reduces his risk? That doesn’t make sense. If my cousin who holds a British passport stays in my house and is going back, you allow him to come in but you say I can’t?” Mohammed asked.
“I don’t think the issue is how many people have tested positive or how many people Britain claims have tested positive. My position is very clear. Is travel ban the answer? The answer is no. Number one, where is the origin of this Omicron variant? It is definitely not Africa or Nigeria,” the Minister said.
Sarafa Tunji Isola, Nigeria’s ambassador to the UK also said “Nigeria is actually aligned with the position of the UN secretary general that the travel ban is apartheid, in the sense that we’re not dealing with an endemic situation, we are dealing with a pandemic situation, and what is expected is a global approach, not selective.”