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Omicron: Nigeria accuses UK of ‘travel apartheid’

Omicron: Nigeria accuses UK of ‘travel apartheid’

06 December 2021

The high commissioner for Nigeria, Sarafa Tunji Isola, at Buckingham Palace during a video call with the Queen from Windsor Castle. PHOTO: Dominic Lipinski/AFP/Getty Images

Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the UK has described the Britain’s decision to put the West African country on its red list as a “travel apartheid”.

Britain added Nigeria to its travel red list and will enforce stricter entry rules starting Monday, over concerns of the spread of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.

All travellers from Nigeria to Britain will also have to quarantine on arrival in hotels for 10 days regardless of  vaccination status. The Guardian UK reported that quarantine would cost of 2,285

The new restrictions were put in place to slow down the spread of Omicron variant of COVID-19, Britain’s health minister Savid Javid said.

“We’ve kept the data under review over the last week or so since we learned about Omicron, and we’re seeing increasing number of cases linked to travel,” Javid said in a broadcast.

Sarafa Tunji Isola, who is Nigeria’s ambassador to the UK told the BBC that “the reaction in Nigeria is that of travel apartheid.”

“Because Nigeria is actually aligned with the position of the UN secretary general that the travel ban is apartheid, in the sense that we’re not dealing with an endemic situation, we are dealing with a pandemic situation, and what is expected is a global approach, not selective.”

Isola added that Omicron “is classified as a mild variant – no hospitalisation, no deaths. So the issue is quite different from the Delta variant.”

UK  minister for policing Kit Malthouse said the wording “travel apartheid” was “very unfortunate language”.

“We understand the difficulties that’s created by these travel restrictions, but we’re trying to buy a little bit of time so that our scientists… can work on the virus and assess how difficult it’s going to be for us to cope with as a country,” Malthouse said.

The Nigerian government, however, said the UK’s decision was “unfair” and “discriminatory”.

“I can say, without mincing words, that the decision by the British government to put Nigeria on the red list, just because of less than two dozen cases of Omicron which, by the way, did not originate in Nigeria, is unjust, unfair, punitive, indefensible and discriminatory,” Nigeria’s information minister Lai Mohammed told a press conference in Abuja.

Mohammed argued that the UK’s “decision is also not driven by science.”

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