UK travel ban: Nigerian lawmakers resolve to intervene

The House of Representatives on Tuesday resolved to wade into the suspension of issuance of visitors Visas to Nigerians by the United Kingdom (UK) over the fear of the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Therefore, the House mandated its Committees on Health and Foreign Affairs to interface with the Ministries of Health, Foreign affairs and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on best ways of resolving the issue.

The resolution was sequel to the adoption at plenary of a motion of urgent public importance moved by Ndudi Elumelu, the Minority Leader.

Elumelu said the announcement made by Sajid Javid, the United Kingdom (UK) Health Secretary on Saturday December 4, placing a temporary ban on foreign travelers from Nigeria to the UK with effect from December 6, as a result of concerns over the Omicron COVID-19 variant, was worrisome.

He noted that the decision covers travel to the UK for tourism, visiting friends and family, undertaking short term business activities, short term studies, exchange programmes as well as medical reasons which is coming only a few days after Canada extended its travel ban to travelers who recently visited Nigeria.

The lawmaker argued that though the ban is for Nigerians bound for the UK, it does not exempt over 8,000 Nigerian travelers that have bought air tickets to visit Nigeria during this festive period, as the restriction would affect their re-entry into the UK after holidays.

Elumelu is “worried that rather than seek to work with its commonwealth ally on ways to combat and curtail the spread of this new variant, the UK government decided to out rightly ban Nigerian travelers from entering their country which is a sharp contrast to that of the United States government whose response is for travelers to produce evidence of negative test result at the point of departure as well as a day two test result after arrival in their country, a response that have received wide commendation across board.

“Further worried that the UK government chose to announce the ban without discussing the data in its possession with the Nigerian government but instead gave an hour’s notice to the Nigeria authorities before its inclusion on the red list, contrary to known international convention.”

He said that if the decision is left unchallenged, Nigeria will lose economic benefits that usually come from thousands of their relatives who normally return to the country at this time and investments already made would be lost.

“Children who school abroad and had thought of returning home during this festive period to rejoin with their families and with fears that when they later go back will be subjected to 10 days mandatory isolation centre and be made to pay £2,700 for such hotel bookings may be totally discouraged from coming home and thereby deny such families the opportunity of their children rejoining them for this annual family union,” he said.

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