Canada yesterday banned travellers from Nigeria, Egypt, and Malawi over fears of the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, bringing to 10 the number of African countries targeted by Ottawa, according to the AFP.
This is just as members of Nigeria’s House of Representatives at plenary yesterday, mandated the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to step up national response to control the emergence and spread of new COVID-19 omicron variant in order to spare Nigeria the full brunt of the third wave of the pandemic.
“Foreign nationals who have transited or stayed in these 10 countries cannot enter Canada if they have been in those countries in the last two weeks,” the AFP quoted Canadian Health Minister, Jean-Yves Duclos, to have said at a press conference.
He also said all air travelers arriving from outside Canada, apart from the United States, would now need to be tested for Covid-19 at their point of entry, “whether they are vaccinated or unvaccinated,” and that those travelers would need to isolate until their test results are available.
First reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) less than a week ago after being detected in southern Africa earlier in November, the Omicron variant has already appeared in several countries, stoking global fears about a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than five million people and savaged economies worldwide.
“The pandemic is not over,” Transport Minister Omar Alghabra added. “Travel measures could change at any moment.”
Canada on Friday banned entry to all travelers from seven southern African countries: Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
And on Sunday, Canada confirmed it had detected its first cases of the new Omicron strain, in two people who had traveled recently to Nigeria.
Canada however, has no direct flight with Nigeria.
Meanwhile, in Nigeria, the House of Representatives have also mandated the NCDC to ensure intensive observation and check on travel protocols for inbound passengers.
It further mandated the Federal Ministry of Health to mandate the COVID-19 Task Force to immediately activate strategies to be implemented in monitoring adherence to COVID-19 guidelines and ensure residents continue to comply with all advisories aimed at curtailing the spread of COVID-19.
The resolutions of the lawmakers were sequel to the adoption of a motion of urgent national importance sponsored by Hon. Dachung Bagos (PDP, Plateau).
Moving the motion, Bagos said the House was aware that on November 26th, 2021 a new, heavily mutated COVID-19 variant named Omicron was discovered in South Africa and had spread across the globe on Sunday, shutting borders and renewing curbs as the EU chief said governments faced a “race against time” to understand.
He said the House was also aware that on November 26, 2021, WHO designated the variant B.1.1.529 a variant of concern, named Omicron, on the advice of WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE).
This decision, he noted was based on the evidence presented to the TAG-VE that Omicron has several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves, for example, on how easily it spreads or the severity of illness it causes.
He expressed concerns that Canada said on Sunday it had detected its first cases of the new Omicron strain of COVID in two people who had travelled recently to Nigeria.
He noted that the NCDC, said it was monitoring emerging evidence on Omicron variant and its implication, to inform Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said, “The government of Ontario confirmed that the two cases are In the Capital, Ottawa and also preliminary evidence suggests there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron (ie, people who have previously had COVID-19 could become re-infected more easily with Omicron), as compared to other variants of concern.
“Concerned that a total of 126 genomes of this variant have been detected globally and published on GISAID, a global mechanism for sharing sequencing data, and there seem to be a high number of mutations present in the Omicron variant and the exponential rise suggesting the virus to be highly transmissible and may also present an increased risk of reinfection compared to other variant of concern (VOC).”
In his contribution, Hon. Henry Nwawuba (PDP, Imo) opined that the provisions which the controversial infectious diseases Bill sought to achieve is playing out today.
He said the government should be proactive and not wait for other countries to take actions that will affect Nigeria.
“I want to raise the consciousness of Nigerians on the Omicron variant of COVID-19 which has led to travel restrictions placed in some countries. Last year this house moved for the control of infectious diseases bill at the time there was an outcry saying that the bill was draconian and the house was overstepping its boundary, that we are giving too much power to the NCDC.
“All those things that we proposed in the infectious diseases bill that led to the outcry have happened in the world today. Today there are travel restrictions, vaccine mandate, everything we did is playing out today. The truth about COVID-19 is that we have to be proactive. We can’t sit back and wait.”