Wednesday, 08 December 2021 03:53

NGF: Travel restrictions could heighten vaccine hesitancy — WHO must intervene

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) says the travel restrictions placed on Nigerian travellers by a number of foreign countries could worsen vaccine hesitancy.

The NGF described the development as “arbitrary stigmatisation”.

The governors asked the World Health Organisation (WHO) to intervene by “setting uniform standards that are acceptable to all” countries.

Following the discovery of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, Canada, Indonesia, the UK and a number of countries in Europe banned travellers from some African countries, including Nigeria.

In a statement issued on Tuesday by Kayode Fayemi, NGF chairman and governor of Ekiti, the governors said the travel restrictions were implemented without careful consideration.

The governors said some countries with higher cases of the new variant were not banned.

“Canada and the United Kingdom have hastily included Nigeria among the Omicron present countries which must stay away from their shores, an action viewed by the NGF as precipitate, unfair and discriminatory,” the statement reads.

“Omicron still remains relatively unknown globally as it is not yet clear whether it is more transmissible from person to person compared to other variants including Delta.

“It is very discouraging to note that there are several countries that have reported cases of Omicron similar to or higher than Nigeria’s, that have not been banned from entry to the UK and/Canada. 

“Confirmed Omicron cases as at December 3rd, across some countries are: Nigeria (3 ); Australia (7); Brazil (3); Germany (9) Israel(4); Italy (9) & Netherlands(16). There is also no evidence that harsh, blanket travel bans will protect the countries that impose them.

“It is ironical that this ban comes at a time when the DG of the WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus, has advised that “rational proportional risk reduction measures” be taken by countries such as screening passengers prior to departure and/or upon arrival in a country, or enforcing a quarantine period.

“The NGF therefore urges the WHO to intervene in this matter by setting uniform standards that are acceptable to all for banning countries across the globe.

“As we know, vaccine hesitancy is quite high and for many reasons including disruptive announcements like this which could exacerbate distrust of the vaccine and heighten hesitancy.

“World leaders and stakeholders in the West need to remember that with the COVID-19 pandemic, until everyone is free, no one is free. Variants will continue to appear and spread across the globe as long as global herd immunity has not been achieved.”

[TheCable]

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