• en

UK to Add Nigeria to Red List on Monday Amid Omicron Spread

Following the 21 cases of Omicron variant of COVID-19 reported in England, which are linked to travel from Nigeria, the United Kingdom has announced a temporary measure to prevent further

Following the 21 cases of Omicron variant of COVID-19 reported in England, which are linked to travel from Nigeria, the United Kingdom has announced a temporary measure to prevent further cases of the virus from entering the country from 4a.m. tomorrow Monday.

Under the new measure, which would be reviewed after three weeks, the UK will tomorrow add Nigeria to the red list of countries from where people arriving must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days, in an effort to limit the spread of Omicron strain of COVID-19, Health Secretary, Mr. Sajid Javid, said yesterday.

This implies that from 4a.m. on Monday, UK and Irish citizens and residents arriving from Nigeria must isolate in a government-approved managed quarantine facility for 10 days, and receive two negative PCR tests, as further precautionary action is taken against the Omicron variant.

A temporary travel ban would therefore be introduced for all non-UK and non-Irish citizens and residents who have been in Nigeria in the last 10 days, meaning they will be refused entry into the UK.
This does not apply to those who have stayed airside and only transited through Nigeria while changing flights.

Canada had on Tuesday banned travellers from Egypt, Nigeria and Malawi over fears of the spread of the new Omicron variant.
Meanwhile, the federal government has, however, intensified talks with Afrexim Bank to fast-track local production of COVID-19 vaccine within the next one year, according to the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire.
However, a renowned Virologist and Chairman of the Board of the Bio-Vaccine Nigerian Limited, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, has told THISDAY that the local production of the COVID-19 vaccine in the country may not be possible within the next one year despite the ongoing efforts to fast-track the process.
Speaking on the UK’s  decision, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria,  Catriona Laing said:“I know that this decision will have a significant impact on people in both our countries, particularly at this time of year. This decision is a precautionary measure to protect public health in the UK, whilst we try to understand this new variant.
“We continue to work very closely with the Nigerian authorities in tackling the pandemic and commend their ongoing work.”
UK Health Secretary, Javid also stated that travellers heading to the UK would now have to take a COVID-19 test before their departure in an effort to limit spread of the virus.
He said the tightened requirements would come into force from Tuesday.
According to him, travellers would be required to submit evidence of a negative lateral flow or PCR test to enter the UK.
Javid confirmed that Nigeria would be added to the red list of countries from where people arriving the UK must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days.
BBC reported that currently travellers only need to self-isolate until they test negative within two days of arriving the UK.
Javid said the government’s strategy since the discovery of the Omnicron variant had been to “buy time” to assess and to “put in place protective measures”, adding that “we’ve always said that we would act swiftly should new data require it”.
He said: “Over the recent days we have learnt of a significant number of growing cases linked to travel with Nigeria
“There are 27 cases already in England and that’s growing and Nigeria now is second only to South Africa in terms of linked cases to Omicron.
“So today, the government has decided to add Nigeria to the travel red list and that will be effective from 4am on Monday. This will mean that only UK residents or citizens of the UK can enter the UK from Nigeria from that point onwards, and they would have to quarantine in one of the relevant hotels.
“We’ve also decided to require pre-departure tests for all inward travellers that will be effective from 4am on Tuesday, and they’ll be required maximum of 48 hours before the departure time,” he explained.
UK said the new protocol does not apply to persons “staying airside and only transiting through”.
Javid added the government had “been clear that we will take action if it is necessary,” adding that it was important to remember vaccinations “are our first line of defence” and calling on people to get a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine when called to do so by the NHS.
The moves come after pressure on the government to tighten the policy had been growing over the course of the week.
Last week the government’s scientific advisory body Sage, said pre-departure tests for those arriving in the UK would be valuable, in the leaked minutes of a meeting seen by the BBC.
The Labour Party had previously criticised the government’s current testing policy and called for the reintroduction of pre-departure tests.
While Labour has pushed for pre-departure testing to avoid Omicron spreading, travel businesses will see it as a significant setback – just when green shoots of recovery were emerging.
Airlines have supported the red list re-introduction and extension.
But they view the introduction of blanket restrictions as unnecessary and ineffective.

FG, Afrexim Bank Intensify Talks on Local COVID-19 Vaccine Production

Meanwhile, the federal government has intensified talks with Afrexim Bank to fast-track local production of COVID-19 vaccine within the next year, the Minister of Health, Ehanire, has said.
Ehanire disclosed at the weekend that the federal government had been meeting with the top officials of the Afrexim Bank to secure their financial support to fast-track the process of reviving vaccine production in Nigeria.
Part of the readiness for local production of vaccines is the meeting of the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO) by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojishola Adeyeye, had stated that the country had met the 868 requirements demanded by the WHO to qualify for the production of vaccines in the country.
However, Adeyeye added that WHO would still send an assessment team in a couple of months to verify things before formal certification would be given to Nigeria.
Ehanire noted in his speech at the special session of the National Council of Health that took place in Abuja, that one of the lessons, Nigeria had learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic was the need to develop a minimum level of self-sufficiency in medical infrastructure.
The minister who was referring to the difficulties encountered by Nigeria in the procurement of basic treatment tools during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and is still experiencing it with regards to vaccine procurement, said: “It has been said that COVID-19 has been an eye-opener for the country. It has its realities, which we all have to adjust to. The first is that there is no way we can rest on our oars and believe that we have won. There is no way we can believe that nothing is happening. We all must agree to strengthen our health system and be prepared to tackle any of the health challenges.
“At the time we were looking items like personal protective equipment, reagents, and other commodities, we realised that when push comes to shove, most of these countries would like to take care of themselves before considering even their friends and therefore we have realised that we need some level self-sufficiency”.
Ehanire said that the federal government was pleased that in many ways the country is responding to the challenge and that industries have sprung up to produce personal protective equipment, hand sanitisers.
“Our research institutes have been able to develop equipment and materials. So, we are on a good way into that and our research Institutes have developed equipment and materials They have also been able to carry out sequencing and reagents and are on the way to making vaccines.”
He said his ministry is working with the NCDC, Nigeria Medical Research, in Lagos, and the Centre for Excellence in Ede, Osun State, and trying to get the best from them.
Concerning local vaccine production, Ehanire said the government was determined to achieve that.
“We are working with the Bio-Vaccine Nigerian Limited and I met with the Managing Director of the firm today and urged him to speed up all the processes for us to use the opportunities and support we have from outside this country to enhance the manufacture of vaccines.
“I also received the President of Afriexim Bank yesterday to discuss a few things. Part of it is the mopping up support in the area of vaccine production and when the details are clear we will be able to announce.”
Ehanire said that the vaccine production is not just for COVID-19 but vaccines against various diseases, adding also that the country wants to be able to tackle future health emergencies as they emerge.
The minister said that part of what the government is trying to deal with is to clear the erroneous perception that the foreign partners said that Nigeria does not have anything on the ground.
“Yes, we have a veterinary vaccine plant in Jos,” he added.
According to him, Nigeria once had a human vaccine factory, which was shut down for maintenance.
The minister promised that the government was working to revive the vaccine production facility.
He said that it requires technical expertise and funds to pull through with the venture.
But Tomori, who is also a former President of the Nigeria Academy of Science, (NAS), told THISDAY in a telephone interview at the weekend that the country may not be ready to produce the vaccine within one year.
Tomori said that Bio-Vaccine Company is already taking steps to speed up the process, pointing out, however, that to get the structures and equipment ready for commencement of local vaccine production would probably exceed the one-year target.
“Bio-vaccine is already fast-tracking steps to produce vaccines locally. Even if the buildings and structures are ready today, you will need more than a year to begin vaccine manufacturing. And the buildings are not ready yet,” he said.

Follow us on: