The Federal Government has faulted the decision by the United Kingdom to place Nigeria on its “red list” over the Omicron COVID-19 variant, describing it as hasty and unhelpful.
Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health, disclosed the Federal Government’s stance in an interview on Sunday.
British Health Minister Sajid Javid, on Saturday, announced that Nigeria will be added to Britain’s travel “red list” at 0400 GMT on Monday (today), stating that 21 cases of the Omicron COVID variant were reportedly linked to travel from Nigeria.
Reacting to the development, Ehanire said the decision by the British authorities is ill-advised, adding that the rationale behind it is faulty.
“We were not very happy when six countries in Sub-Saharan Africa were placed on a red list and the WHO also advised against putting each other on the red list,” the minister said on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics.
“From what we know about the COVID-19, there are many ways to manage it, and besides, not much is still known about the Omicron variant. We know, for example, that there have been no fatalities.
“There have also been no reports of very severe illness. Actually, the rationale for being so hasty in putting countries on the red list is not something that is very helpful.”
According to the minister, the placement of countries on the red list will not help in the global fight against the pandemic, insisting that a common approach globally is needed to fight the new COVID variants.
He added that Nigeria is not contemplating a travel restriction imposition on travellers from countries.
He said: “If every country were going to put other countries on the ban list, very soon you would have a large number of countries on your red list.
“So, I do believe there are other ways of going about it. We in Nigeria do not regard banning flights and movements of people as particularly helpful and supportive.
“I believe all countries should come together to take a common approach, and that includes the UK and other countries that are contemplating Red Lists and so on.
“We did do something with red lists in the past and the experience so far shows that it may be better to be more clinical and surgical about how we put countries in red lists and if there is any need for it, we should not be too much in a haste to create list of that nature.”
He also disclosed that that most of the inbound passengers that tested positive in Nigeria were actually from the UK.
“Because of the very large volume of travellers from the UK, we also have the most positive COVID-19 virus coming from the UK too,” the minister said.