The Federal Government recently warned Nigerians against travelling to countries that are recording a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a further move to curtail the spread of the disease in the country, the Federal Government also banned visitors from India, Turkey and Brazil from entering Nigeria. Considering that Nigerians frequently visit some of these countries either for business or medical tourism, the government’s warning is timely and worthwhile.
In issuing the warning, the Chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said non-compliant airlines would pay a fine of $3,500 for each passenger. Also, COVID-19 PCR test results older than 72 hours before departure, he said, would not be accepted. These precautionary measures, according to him, were a necessary step to minimise the risk of a surge in COVID-19 cases introduced to Nigeria from other countries.
He stressed: “State governments are required to ensure that all returning travellers from all countries are monitored to ensure adherence to the mandatory seven-day self-isolation period and the repeat COVID-19 PCR test on the seventh day after arrival.”
The spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria was as a result of initial lowering of guards. There was no conscious effort to curb movements of people until it started spreading in the country. So far, the country is still grappling with the effect of the pandemic. Some prominent Nigerians have lost their lives while some are still battling the effect of the scourge. Currently, Nigeria has recorded over 165,000 cases with over 2,000 deaths. Worldwide, over 154 million cases have been recorded with over three million deaths.
Many countries are already battling the third wave of the pandemic, which is fuelled by the new variants of the virus. It could reportedly be more deadly and 50 per cent more transmissible than the original virus. In Germany, COVID-19 patients occupy over 5,000 ICU beds as they also make up about 80 per cent of those in the hospital on heart and lung replacement machines.
The worst hit in the third wave of the pandemic is India. At over 20 million cases currently, India is second to the United States, which currently has over 33 million cases. For more than 10 days, the Asian country recorded over 300,000 daily cases. Hospitals, morgues and crematoriums are overwhelmed. Oxygen, drugs, tests and hospital beds are in short supply in the country.
Brazil and Turkey are also overwhelmed. Total deaths in Brazil are second only to the United States, while Turkey has the record of being the country with the world’s fifth highest number of cases. It recently imposed a nationwide lockdown to curb the pandemic. The lockdown will last until May 17, 2021.
Different countries have taken measures to curtail the spread of the third wave. Lockdowns and restrictions are either being considered or reintroduced in places like France, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands and many others. Australia, Iran, Kuwait, UAE, US, United Kingdom, France and Canada are among countries that have banned flights from India and some other worst hit countries. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in its travel advisory to all US citizens, warned against travelling to India, saying even fully vaccinated travellers might be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.
We must ensure that we keep the statistics low in Nigeria. Hence, we must be vigilant and ensure that all visitors to Nigeria, either by air, land or sea, are thoroughly checked.
We commend the Lagos State Government for the efforts so far taken to avert the third wave. The state Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said recently that all the state’s facilities had been placed on high alert to prevent another wave of COVID-19 pandemic. He explained that countries like India, Brazil, Argentina, Iraq, Qatar, Peru and Uruguay were being ravaged by a vicious third or fourth wave following a less active second or third wave.
As part of efforts to contain the third wave, Lagos has made it mandatory that all Nigerians and permanent residents of Nigeria who had been in the most affected countries in the past 14 days must undergo one-week quarantine in a government approved facility on arrival. All passengers arriving in Nigeria, Abayomi reiterated, would have to show a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours as against the previous 96 hours period.
In all, Nigerians must avoid non-essential travels, especially medical tourism, for now. Most Nigerians have the penchant to travel to India for every minor ailment. We should learn to use available local alternatives. On its part, government should also revamp the nation’s ailing health sector.
We enjoin Nigerians to adhere to all COVID-19 safety protocols, such as the use of facemasks, regular use of hand sanitizers, constant washing of hands, and maintaining social or physical distancing. Observing the non-pharmaceutical measures is the best way Nigeria can prevent the third wave of COVID-19.