With agency reports from Festus Akanbi in Lagos and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja.
Following Nigeria’s decision to implement travel restrictions, the federal government plans to add the United Kingdom, Argentina, Canada, and Saudi Arabia to the red list.
In addition, as a result of the United Kingdom’s restrictive measures against Nigeria and other nations in response to the spread of the Omicron version of COVID19, around 13 countries have prevented UK visitors from entering their country.
The United Kingdom had placed travel restrictions on Nigeria, stating that 21 instances of Omicron had been linked to Nigerian travelers in England.
The travel ban, however, was met with widespread condemnation, with some national and international stakeholders calling it racist and discriminatory.
The UK ruling was also denounced by the federal government, with Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, calling it as discriminatory, unfair, punishing, unjustifiable, and unjust.
Senator Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Aviation, claimed in a leaked voice note yesterday that the decision to ban these countries in retaliation would be made by the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 by Tuesday at the latest.
“Also, there is a case of Saudi Arabia, which put Nigeria on the banned list – no visa, no travel, et Cetra. So also Canada. So, today, there was a meeting, I participated in a zoom meeting, COVID-19 task force, just for your information also.
“We have given our input in aviation, it is not acceptable by us and we recommend that those countries – Canada, the UK, Saudi Arabia, and Argentina be also put on Red List, as they did similarly to us.
“If they don’t allow our citizens to go into their countries who are their airlines coming to pick from our country?
“So, I am very sure that in the next few days, between now and Monday, or perhaps Tuesday, at maximum, all those countries will be put on the red list from the PSC (Presidential Steering Committee) from the task force of COVID-19. Once they are put on the red list, which means they are banned, of course, their airlines will be banned.
“I’m so sorry, we are going through a difficult moment, but we have to do it in the interest of our country,” Sirika explained.
Following the discovery of 21 instances of the Omicron strain of COVID-19 in England, which were purportedly connected to Nigerian travel, the United Kingdom put travel restrictions on the country.
To curb the spread of the Omicron strain of COVID-19, the UK placed Nigeria to the red list of nations from which anyone arriving must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.
As a preventive measure against the Omicron form, UK and Irish citizens traveling from Nigeria must isolate for 10 days in a government-approved managed quarantine facility and have two negative PCR tests.
All non-UK and non-Irish citizens and residents who visited Nigeria in the previous ten days were also subjected to a temporary travel ban, preventing them from entering the UK.
Travelers from Egypt, Nigeria, and Malawi were also barred from Canada and Saudi Arabia due to fears of the new Omicron type spreading.
In the meantime, roughly 13 countries have made it illegal for British citizens to enter their countries.
The countries’ actions were prompted by an increase in Omicron variant cases in the United Kingdom.
According to agency reports reviewed by THISDAY yesterday, with reports of new Omicron variant cases increasing in the UK, some governments have taken steps to prevent UK nationals from visiting their country.
Countries such as Australia, the Falkland Islands, Indonesia, Buhutan, China, Israel, Japan, Laos, New Zealand, and Suriname have imposed travel restrictions on the United Kingdom, according to the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office in London.
In addition, Malaysia and Taiwan have imposed entrance restrictions on British tourists and international nationals.
All direct flights from the United Kingdom have also been halted by Chinese officials.
Only six verified instances of the COVID-19 Omicron variant had been reported in Nigeria, according to the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).