COVID-19: Nigeria to impose travel ban on India, Brazil Turkey, says PSC

The Federal Government plans to issue a travel advisory within the next two days on inbound flights from India, Brazil and Turkey.

This followed the escalation of new variants of COVID-19 virus in those countries, Head, Technical Secretariat of the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Dr, Mukhtar Muhammad, said at a news conference in Abuja yesterday.

He expressed concern over the situation in India, which is a popular destination for medical tourists from Nigeria.

The PSC also urged Nigerians to keep observing all the regulations and instructions already provided to keep safe from the infection of COVID-19, warning that the third wave of the pandemic, going by how it has been sweeping through other parts of the world, is lurking around to enter Nigeria, especially as the nation has already reopened its economy to the world.

He said: “While we continue to reopen the economy, we must also be aware of the happenings around the globe. Mr. Chairman and Minister of Health have made reference to specific incidences in India, Turkey, Brazil and also South Africa.

“These were taken with serious concern and we continue to monitor what is going on in these countries. We sympathise with the people of these countries because it is really a very trying time particularly for India, that is recording over 300,000 cases a day. And accordingly over 2000 deaths.

“It is not easy. India is a prime destination for medical tourism for Nigeria. We know that many Nigerians like to travel to go to India, but now we see the situation that the country has found itself in. While we urge Nigerians to limit all travellers to only essential travel, particularly to these affected countries.

“We will continue to urge Nigerians to also comply with public health measures that are put in place to continue to ensure that we comply with the regulation.

“We actually empathise with those countries and what is happening in those climes. However, on our part, we are looking seriously into this issue. We are looking at other considerations that we need to provide.

“The health of Nigerians is of prime importance and whatever we need to do to protect Nigeria and to protect Nigerians from going into escalation of this current situation, the PSC will do that as necessarily.

“We will be providing some travel advise in the next 48, 72 hours with particular reference to both Nigerians and those coming into the country to help advise us.”

On the threat of a possible third wave, Muhammad said there should be no doubt about the possibility, pointing out that it is just a matter of time, advising all citizens to continue complying with all guidelines earlier provided.

He said: “We’re not saying this just for saying sake, but it is important to looking at what is going on around the globe to ensure that we protect our country. The fact that the number of cases in this country are not rising, it does not mean that we are immune or we are completely protected against COVID-19.”

“The third wave, the way we see it going on now, it’s only a matter of time. It is not a matter of if, but truly a matter of when it is going to occur. And therefore this measures that have been outlined, we must continue to ensure that we comply and make sure that we protect our public and our communities.”

Speaking on the gradual restart of aviation activities in Nigeria, Muhammad said international flights into the Port Harcourt International Airport would resume today (Tuesday) and that of Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, would follow later in the month.

The airports in Lagos, Abuja and Kano were reopened for international flights last year.

He said: “We have continued with this and in the last few weeks, we have recommenced international flights in Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu. We are in preparation to commence Port Harcourt tomorrow and probably Enugu later in the month.

“It is important to note that while we are opening these international flights, there is also a risk, that is the risk of importation of additional cases into the country. We have to balance the economy with also our public health.

“This calls for increased vigilance on our side, from the Federal Ministry of Health to the port Health Authority, the state governments, public health departments, and the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, to continue to man our borders and ensure that people that come into this country, either COVID negative, or they are safe to pass into our communities.”

On the Ramadan month, he advised the Muslim Ummah that “we are in the month of Ramadan and very soon will commence Salah celebration. Let us remember that COVID-19 is still here with us. And we have to take all the necessary precaution to ensure that we remain safe and also protect our loved ones.”

Also yesterday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned African countries not to let down their guards, especially in observing all the non-pharmaceutical interventions like avoiding large gatherings and practicing social distancing, properly wearing face masks, and regularly washing their hands and using sanitizers.

It urged African countries and others to learn from the experience of India and other countries that are currently experiencing a dangerous and heartbreaking phase of the covid-19 pandemic.

The United Nations (UN) agency noted that in the last seven days, 5.7 million new positive cases have been reported globally.

Speaking during a virtual briefing yesterday, the Technical Lead for COVID-19 at the WHO Emergencies Programme, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, said: “The situation in India is really heartbreaking. The exponential growth we have seen in case numbers is really and truly astonishing.

“We have seen a similar trajectory of increases in transmission in the number of countries; it has not been on the same scale, and has not had the same level of impact and burden on the health system than that we have seen in India.

“This can happen in a number of countries if we let our guards down. I am not saying that India has let its guard down, but I am saying that we are in a fragile situation. 9 weeks of case incidents increasing and almost 5.7 million cases reported last week; and that is certainly an underestimate of the true number of cases of infections that have occurred in the last week.

“It is a fragile situation globally, and we really have the elements around the world with a lack of strategic and comprehensive public health and social measures for a variety of reasons. Some individuals cannot attain physical distancing living in very crowded situations; some cannot ensure proper use of face masks because they do not have those masks or for some number of reasons social gatherings are taking place.”

<<The Nation>>