Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has cancelled already issued visas to travelers from the 13 effected countries of coronavirus.
This is as a result of the trend of the novel coronavirus disease – COVID-19 and the subsequent declaration as pandemic by the World Health Organisation.
The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola said effective Saturday, March 21st, no flights from these countries will be allowed entry into Nigeria.
The 13 countries are: China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Switzerland.
These are all countries with over 1,000 case domestically.
It is a complete ban.
Aregbesola said: “In addition to the measures announced by the secretary to the government of federation, the federal government of Nigeria is restricting entry into the country for travelers from the following 13 countries China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, Norway, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Switzerland.
“These are all countries with over 1,000 case of the virus domestically.
“What this really means is that we are suspending issuance of visas and we are canceling all visas already issued to citizens or travelers from these nations.
“It will take effect from saturday March 21st and will will last for four weeks for the time being, while development will dictate what will happen thereafter.”
The Interior Minister said the government was considering other measures and would be made public at the appropriate time.
Asked if the government was outrightly banning flights from the affected countries, Aregbesola said: “precisely yes. Beyond that we are suspending insurance of visa for citizens and travelers from those nations as well as canceling already issued visas. So there is no ambiguity at all, it is clear. We are no longer allowing flights from those citizens for now.”
On Nigerians abroad returning home, he said: “Well, I am not a lawyer but flights from those nations can no longer enter Nigeria with effect from Saturday.”
On possible job loss of ground staff or salary slash, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed said: “This is a national emergency. We are talking about national interest now and I believe that what is most important for us is to save millions of Nigerians not just from their own jobs but save their lives. I think if put on the balance it’s clear which option should be adopted. Of course it will bring some hardship as it is bringing in other parts of the world but when you put it on the balance the option is very clear and the interest of Nigeria is paramount and superior to any other personal interest.”
On why implementation of flight ban will wait till Saturday despite the danger posed by the virus, Mohammed said: “Because normally there is what is called NOTAM – Notice To All Airmen. If you want to issue a kind of restrictions like this you give notice more than 24 hours to all airmen so that they will know when to position their flights and for safety and security reasons.
“For instance if an aircraft has taken off now you cannot ask it to go back mid air.”
On if there will be restrictions in religious gathering, the information minister said there is a presidential Taskforce on COVID-19 and a multi-sectoral emergency operation committee by the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), that have been daily briefing Nigerians as to the development of the virus.
He said: “As it is necessary announcement will be made regarding social distancing, personal hygiene as at when due.
“But the message is that Nigerians should take ownership of this pandemic and we should self-regulate. A lot of decisions have been taken by other countries which shows that when there is national interest and the safety of people, all other matters pal to insignificance. But we will let you know when such decision will be taken.”
On when the President will address the nation, Mohammed said, “when it is appropriate Mr. President will address the nation. But I think what you want to hear from Mr. President are the kind of things we are telling you. This is not to preempt or second guess Mr. President, I think he will do the needful.”