Nigeria Criticizes British Travel Ban Imposed Due to Omicron

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The British government on Monday suspended visa applications from Nigeria, in a move taken by the Omicron version of the coronavirus.

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London’s travel ban on Nigeria went into effect at 4 am on Monday, according to a statement from Britain’s Nigeria Country Office. UK officials said the ban was deemed necessary after 21 cases of the new variant were reported in travelers from Nigeria.

UK citizens and residents traveling from Nigeria will be allowed re-entry, but will have to isolate at a government-managed facility, the statement said.


During a television interview on Sunday, Nigeria’s Health Minister Osagi Ehanair criticized the travel ban.

He said the move contradicted the World Health Organization’s position that countries should cooperate and not close their borders as a result of the new version.

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“The justification for being so hasty in putting countries on the red list is not something that is very helpful,” Ehanaire said. “It’s going to disrupt commerce, family reunions, goods and services, especially toward Christmas celebrations at this time of year.”

Nigeria announced three cases of the Omicron version last Wednesday, but the discovery of more cases in Nigerian travelers to the UK raised concerns about the possibility of undetected transmission in the country.

However, Ehnier says the travel ban doesn’t guarantee that just yet.

“We regularly receive travelers arriving from the UK who are Covid positive,” he said. “In fact, within the last two weeks, the COVID-positive arrivals that we had were 50 per cent from the UK. Genetic sequencing is underway, we will have results soon. We don’t know how many of those are necessarily oomicron variants.”

The Omicron version has spread to nearly 50 countries, and experts say the version spread more than twice as fast as the Delta version. But scientists aren’t sure of Omicron’s effect, and whether it causes the same number of hospitalizations and deaths.

Nigerian Justin Chukwuemeka, who was due to return to the UK with his family this week, says the new travel ban is devastating.

“This whole development is new and it is really going to cause a lot of trouble in economic, mental and all other areas. I am just hoping and believing that it will not last long,” he said.

UK officials say the restrictions will be in place for three weeks before they review whether the measures are necessary.

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