It sounds ironic but actually a disturbing piece of news that in the midst of COVID-19 resurgence in China forcing many countries to impose travel restrictions on travellers from that country that Nigeria would say travel restrictions have no significant health benefit.
The ironic part of this official stand is that a few weeks ago, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, issued a positive COVID-19 Public Health Guidelines for any passenger onboard aircraft and inside airport terminals.
The NCAA rule, signed by its Director General, Captain Musa Nuhu, made the wearing of face masks discretionary, cancelled the disinfection of bags at the entrance of terminal buildings and maintenance of social distancing at airport terminal buildings and vacated pre-departure and post-arrival COVID-19 PCR tests for all passengers, irrespective of vaccination status.
It also suspended PCR tests required for all passengers who are partially or not fully vaccinated.
Moreover, health declaration forms and permission to travel/QR code are no longer required but a simplified health questionnaire form (non-COVID-19 specific) which shall be completed by all passengers travelling to Nigeria, preferably pre-departure on the Nigerian International Travel Portal (NITP).
The disturbing aspect of the Federal Government’s reaction is the reasoning behind its statement.
It read in part, “We have not seen any difference between people coming from China and people coming from other countries. But if we see any red flags, we will be able to consider what to do. So far, we have not seen any red flags to necessitate us to take action against any country.”
This sounds morbid.
The only red flag that attends COVID-19 and its several mutations is infection that is contagious and possibly death, depending on strict adherence to regulations, management and treatment.
Coming at a period when over 22 countries globally have reacted immediately to the new viral threat by imposing travel bans on travellers arriving from China and Covid-19 test on others, the government’s stand is alarming.
The reason is that this position flies in the face of evidence: One of the fastest and easiest ways to spread the deadly virus is through travel, mostly by air. In addition, compulsory travellers medical tests besides widespread vaccination and lock-down remain the best way to attack the early warning signal which the surge in China has presented, almost two years after the initial outbreak in Wuhan.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the Nigerian health ministry and its COVID-19 regulatory body, sees nothing beneficial in it, because of its inability to effectively implement it in the past. Sharp graft practices and widespread conspiracy theories can be associated with the recorded failure at every level of enforcement and vaccination.
When things are not done properly, failures and possible discrediting is always the result.
“All persons arriving in Ghana (citizens, residents, and visitors) who are fully vaccinated will be exempted from any form of testing done either prior to boarding from the originating country or on arrival in Ghana except passengers originating their journey from China,” the statement reads.
It is on this note we call on the authorities to be proactive like their counterparts in Europe, America and Asia which have promptly taken measures to tackle the resurgence of the deadly virus.
For one, the earlier COVID-19 Public Health Guidelines issued by the NCCA should be reworked in the face of present realities. Passengers originating their journey from China should be made to present valid negative COVID-19 PCR test results 48 hours prior to departure from the originating country. In addition, such passengers should be made to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing on arrival at any international airport in the country.
Instructively, WHO has urged countries to act in the best interest of its citizens.
According to the Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a tweet last week: “In the absence of comprehensive information from China, it is understandable that countries around the world are acting in ways that they believe may protect their populations,”
For most countries issuing the current travel ban and insisting on incoming China passenger tests on arrival, the test would help experts know which strain of the virus is out there. Knowledge of the variant would assist greatly in developing the necessary medication.
We understand that the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, NCDC, has been unrelenting in tracking and reporting COVID-19 cases in states across the country and we salute them for that.
We urge them to be more proactive in handling the virus which has shown more resilience in mutating as people travel and interact across the world.