….Says remove us from red list or…

UK to lift travel bans, replace it with testing for the fully vaccinated — Report

As UK records first death from Omicron variant

NYSC members to show COVID-19 vaccination proof before camp registration

By Chioma Obinna, Omeiza Ajayi & Juliet Umeh

The Federal Government yesterday sent a strong warning to the four countries which recently placed Nigeria on their “red list” in the wake of the discovery of COVID-19 Omicron variant.

The United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Argentina recently imposed restrictive measures on Nigeria, specifically barring flights from the country into theirs.

The government also gave further insight into  its plan to place on its red list countries that have placed Nigeria on theirs over the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Government’s clarification came on a day the Daily mail of London reported that the United Kingdom would scrap the travel red list this week, and have it replaced with testing for fully vaccinated people.

This is even as the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, warned yesterday that prospective members would be required to show evidence of vaccination before they will be allowed into the camp for registration from the next orientation exercise in 2022.

Acting Chairman, Presidential Steering Committee PSC on COVID-19 and Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, gave the warning at a briefing in Abuja.

On the diplomatic spat between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates UAE, Sirika said as of 4pm yesterday, he had not received the purported letter from the UAE which barred Air Peace flights to Nigeria.

He said Nigeria took the business of governance very seriously and would rather wait to receive the UAE’s letter through internationally recognized diplomatic channels, rather than the social media.

As part of its principle of reciprocity with other countries, the Federal Government had at the weekend concluded plans to retaliate discriminatory measures put in place by those countries against Nigeria.

Nigeria currently has 11 cases of the Omicron variant, a far cry from what obtains in the four countries which have higher figures.

At Monday’s briefing of the PSC, Sirika said if the affected countries failed to heed calls to reverse the restrictive measures, the PSC would meet again to respond appropriately.

He said; “With the emergence of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant, now spreading very fast globally, Nigeria has continued to study developments and has deployed science and data to measure the risks to our citizens, especially, the dangers of importation.

“The PSC wishes to assure Nigerians that it has escalated all surveillance and control measures around our country. It has similarly ramped up vaccination of eligible citizens and residents, while making provisions for booster shots for those fully vaccinated.

“The PSC is working with mandate Ministries to address the issues surrounding the restriction imposed by some countries on travelers from Nigeria on account of the Omicron variant. While each country is entitled to put in place measures to protect its citizens. Nigeria has similar responsibilities.

‘’However, based on existing relationships, Nigeria has initiated diplomatic steps to make these countries reverse their course. This is on-going in the interest of all parties concerned and we expect that positive results would emerge within the next one week.

“The PSC also evaluated the developments on the relationship between Nigeria and the UAE and we are pleased to inform you that the position of the Federal Government is in line with established International Civil Aviation Organization ICAO Protocols and the spirit of the Bilateral Air Services Agreement, BASA, signed with the UAE.

‘’Our sovereignty remains paramount and mutual respects shall be our guiding principle in as much as it should be in the best interest of Nigeria.

“If UK, Canada and others do not delist Nigeria from the red list, the truth is that COVID-19 is scientific and its management is scientific. We believe science is factual and we are deploying measures to save humans from dying.

‘’We strongly believe that they will respond and delist Nigeria. If not, it doesn’t make any sense for us to continue to put our citizens at risk. We will take the necessary steps to protect our citizens. After all, the Federal Government of Nigeria under Buhari’s administration has done extremely well in the management of COVID-19 till date”.

On its part, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency NPHCDA, said it was waiting for clearance from the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, as well as the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, for the safe disposal of over a million doses of expired vaccines.

Executive Director of the NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, who stated this yesterday, also reiterated the position of the PSC not to accept vaccines with short shelf life, adding that government had never administered expired vaccines on Nigerians and would never do so.

The government also gave further insight into  its plan to place on its red list countries that have placed Nigeria on theirs over the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, who spoke as a guest on Channels Television’s news programme late last night, said contrary to claims that the said plan was on a tit-for-tat basis, the move was only expected to be in the best interest of the country.

“I don’t want you to look at it from that angle, (the tit-for-tat perception). No, it’s not that.  In international diplomacy, I am aware that you have what we call the principle of reciprocity in which case you want to act in a reciprocal manner that another country has acted.

“But most important, in all these, is that as a sovereign state, we have every right to determine what is best for us in terms of our interest.

“Whichever way we act, it is in consonance with what we take to be in our own best interest. So it is not an issue of tit-for-tat. It’s been done in the best interest of our country,’’ he said.

The minister also spoke about the exit of many medical practitioners from the country in search of greener pastures abroad.

READ ALSO: Omicron: We’re working to reverse UK ban on Nigerian travelers, says FG

According to him, health workers consider remuneration, conducive environment, available equipment, among other factors, before leaving the shores of Nigeria.

Mamora, however, stated that the Federal Government was working closely with relevant bodies to address the issues that force medical doctors and nurses to leave the country.

“Issues of remuneration, incentives, allowances; all these come into play and must be factored in a manner as to make that system sustainable.  We are looking at all these in totality to ensure that our health personnel will remain.

“But the fact still remains that irrespective of what you do, in the spirit of adventure, there are some people who will still want to leave and we may not have much to do,’’ he said.

UK to lift travel bans, replace it with testing for the fully vaccinated— Report

In a related development, the UK government has disclosed plans to scrap its travel red list this week, according to a Daily Mail report.

The report quoted Grant Shapps, UK transport secretary, as convincing the government that the red list should be replaced with testing for the fully vaccinated.

According to the newspaper, the move is expected to be approved this week.

It noted that at last Wednesday’s COVID briefing, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, had promised to re-examine the policy amid claims it was unfair and ineffective.

It would be recalled that the UK government’s red list, which contained Nigeria, informed the federal government’s plan to also put on its red list the UK, Canada and Saudi Arabia as a retaliatory measure against those countries.

UK records first death from Omicron variant

Similarly, one person has died of complications arising from the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the UK.

According to the BBC, Boris Johnson, the prime minister, announced the death yesterday.

Johnson was reported to have said the new variant was also resulting in hospital admissions and that the “best thing” people could do was get their booster jab.

On a visit to a vaccination centre in west London, Johnson said Omicron accounted for about 40 per cent of the cases in the British capital, adding that hospital admissions were rising.

“Sadly, at least one patient has been confirmed to have died with Omicron,” he told reporters, a day after warning the country was facing a “tidal wave” of infection.

NYSC members to show COVID-19 vaccination proof before camp registration

Meanwhile, the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, has said prospective youth corps members would not be allowed into camp in 2022 without COVID-19 jab.

NYSC Director-General, Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim, announced this yesterday in his nationwide virtual address to the 2021 Batch “C” Stream Two corps members and camp officials.

Amid reported cases of the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, the NYSC DG said the NYSC would not let down its guard on strict adherence to the protocols put in place to curb the spread of the virus.

“We want to ensure that we adhere strictly to the non-pharmaceutical protocols of COVID-19,” he said.



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