The Federal Government has expressed concern over the mutated strain of COVID-19 manifesting in the United Kingdom, saying it may impose a travel ban to and from certain parts of the world. This came as about 40 countries have banned flights from the UK, namely India, Russia, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Israel, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Lithuania, Latvia, France, Malta, Sweden, Greece, Turkey, Hong Kong, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Estonia and more.
Also, Jordan, El Salvador, Ireland, Czech Republic, Colombia, Morocco, Chile, Finland, and Argentina have banned travellers from the UK.
The Federal Government also issued fresh guidelines to stem the rising tide of COVID-19, lamenting that the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Lagos and Kaduna states have become the new epicenters of the virus.
This came as former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar asked the Federal Government to immediately restrict flights from the United Kingdom. Also, public health experts yesterday warned the Federal Government to immediately shut the nation’s airspace against the UK, South Africa and other countries currently witnessing mutant COVID-19 strains.
Meanwhile in Lagos, operatives of the state Police Command have arrested over 200 persons for defying safety measures recently announced by the state government to help contain the spread of COVID-19, which include ban on large gatherings and shut-down of event centres and clubs.
In a related development, the Senate yesterday took a swipe at the Federal Government, expressing lack of confidence in its preparedness to implement COVID-19 vaccination campaign in the country.
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, assured Nigerians that the network of airports across the country is fully prepared for the usual surge in passenger traffic during the Yuletide, despite the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Travel ban to, from other countries on the cards, says Lai Mohammed Worried about the mutated strain of the virus manifesting itself in the United Kingdom, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said the Federal Government may impose a travel ban to and from certain parts of the world. Mohammed, a member of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, said while the government appreciates the negative economic impact of another lock-down, it would not rule out restriction on movement to and from certain parts of the world.
“We are more concerned about the new strain of COVID-19 which is manifesting itself in the UK; that is the mutated strain.
“It is difficult to detect, it spreads faster and people have been known to die of it within a very short period of its detection. This is a major concern to us as a country. “While I do not want to pre-empt the PTF because we are meeting this afternoon, it is going to be top on the agenda of our discussions.
“I will not be surprised if that will be the recommendation of the committee which is meeting later today (yesterday). “This season, many students are coming in from the UK in particular, to come and join their families in Nigeria. Besides, many of our people, because of the traditional links we have with the UK, may want to go there for business or family re-unions.
“It is a very testy time and it might be another dangerous period to transmit this new variant of COVID-19.” The minister noted that many European countries had banned flights to and from the UK. According to Mohammed, the Federal Government will not hesitate to give the directive if it was the only way Nigerians can be protected from the agony of the new variant of COVID-19.
Besides measures to prevent the importation of the new virus strain, the minister said government is worried about the spike in infections in the last couple of days. He enjoined Nigerians to comply with the advisory being regularly issued by the PTF, including the use of face masks, compliance with social distancing protocols, and regular washing of hands with soap and water.
The minister also urged Nigerians to refrain from local or international travels except if absolutely necessary.