Nigerian Government finally succumbed to pressure and placed travel restrictions on 13 high-risk coronavirus countries. The Federal Government announced the decision on Wednesday, explaining that affected countries are those with more than a thousand cases of the virus.
It said the ban would take effect on Friday, March 20, and would last for four weeks, after which there will be consideration for a review.
As part of the travel ban, members of the affected countries will not be issued Nigerian visas until further notice.
The restricted countries are China, Italy, Iran, U.S. and the UK among others made the list. Any other country that falls into the category within the allotted will also be placed on the list.
“Nigerian Government is restricting entry into the country for travellers from the following countries; China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, the United States, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Switzerland. These are all countries with over 1,000 cases domestically.
“Nigerian Government is temporarily suspending all visas issued to nationals from these countries. Nigerians arriving from these countries will be subjected to supervised isolation for 14 days. Nigeria is also advising all Nigerians to avoid travel to these countries. These restrictions will come into effect from Friday 20 March 2020 for four weeks subject to review,” a statement from the Presidential Taskforce on Coronavirus said.
The calls for the travel ban have been ringing for some time now, with Nigerians trending the hashtag, #NigeriaNeedsATravelBan, the unrelenting voices appear to have prevailed on the government to take decisive action.
In reaction to development, former vice president Atiku Abubakar who has been vocal about the need to shut our borders on countries with high-risk of the outbreak praised the Government for listening to the calls.
“I commend FG for heeding to our calls by putting in place a policy of restriction on travelers from countries with high coronavirus cases. I call on Nigerians to adhere strictly to the WHO and NCDC protocols on personal hygiene and social distancing,” he said.
While many are commending the Federal Government for placing the travel ban, others are questioning why it is limited to countries with 1,000 cases and above, saying that it takes only one person to infect a thousand others.
Moreover, they are pointing to some other African countries with no coronavirus cases yet, like Niger Republic and Chad, yet they have stopped all international travels as a precautionary measure. Many are saying that the travel ban should be extended to every country with a known COVID-19 case.
The fear behind the yearning for the government to restrict international flights into Nigeria stems largely from the perceived decay in the country’s health sector, and economic hardship that will make it impossible for people to observe social distancing.
“People living in developed and richer countries can afford to stay at home because of coronavirus, but poor people from poor countries whose survival is a daily struggle, must go outdoors to make a living and fend for their families. Staying at home is as lethal as the virus,” said Senator Shehu Sani.
Developed countries with better health facilities are finding it hard to cope. It is believed that Nigeria will become helplessly overwhelmed if the cases escalate. Already the Federal Ministry of Health has announced nine new cases; five of them had a travel history to the United States and the United Kingdom. Three of the new cases came from the US while two came from the UK.
Four out of them are Nigerians including a new born baby while one is a foreign national who came into the country using the land border. Four of the cases are Lagos while one is in Ekiti State.
Katsina State Ministry of Health announced that the state has recorded its first suspected case. Kabir Mustapha, the permanent Secretary of the Ministry said the person recently returned from Malaysia but has been placed in isolation while effort will be made to trace those he has come in contact with as soon as his test result is out. That put the number of confirmed cases in Nigeria to nine.
The gradual proliferation of the outbreak is greatly impacting fear, instigating calls for stricter measures from the government.
A report from Kano said some Lebanese nationals who went to pilgrim in the city of Qum in Iran, just arrived in the State. They were not quarantined nor have they been contacted by health officials for screening.
The travel restriction is billed to take effect on Friday, and people are concerned that the time will give room for more people from high-risk places to come into Nigeria.