FG mulls fresh lockdown, links rising cases to new variant
Crossover services threatened as religious gatherings restricted to 50% capacity
CAN warns against violating COVID-19 protocol at Christmas
From Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos), Abbas Jimoh & Ojoma Akor (Abuja)
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) yesterday suspended entry of passengers from Nigeria and three other African countries.
The other countries are Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
The UAE had, on December 13, banned foreign airlines from airlifting Nigerian passengers into the country.
The latest ban, taking effect tomorrow, was announced yesterday by the UAE National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA) and the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).
But the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and travel agencies said they were unaware of the current ban.
A memo posted on social media confirmed the latest suspension coming at a time the Federal Government and the UAE had just settled a dispute leading to the lifting of the restriction on Emirates.
The government had withdrawn Emirates winter schedule in retaliation over the denial of Air Peace three frequencies requested at Sharjah Airport.
The Federal Government, through the NCAA, had reinstated Emirates’ frequencies after the UAE authorities granted seven slots to Nigeria’s Air Peace in the country.
While both Emirates and Air Peace have not resumed flights, the UAE authorities issued a new travel restriction which it blamed on the rising cases of Omicron variant of the COVID-19.
The statement by the GCAA and the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority confirmed the “suspension of entry of travelers from Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Nigeria on all flights of national and foreign carriers, as well as transit passengers coming from them, as of Saturday, December 27 at 7:30 pm.
“The suspension includes those who were present during the 14 days before coming to the UAE,” the statement added.
When contacted yesterday, the Director-General of NCAA, Musa Nuhu, said the development was yet to be communicated to the authority.
“As DG of NCAA, I have not received any official communication from UAE on this. I am also reading it on social media,” he said.
Sources in the travel agencies claimed the UAE had imposed further stringent COVID-19 protocols requiring Nigerian passengers to carry out two PCR tests before departing Nigeria.
According to the protocol, the first test is to be done 48 hours to arrival in Dubai; and the second test, six hours to departure with another antigen test done at transit airport. This new protocol is to take effect immediately.
It was learnt that a Qatar Airline flight with Nigerians on board was turned back yesterday following the new protocol.
The president of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies, Susan Akporiaye, in a chat with Daily Trust, asked the UAE to explain the latest development.
She said: “On the Nigerian part, we’ve done our own after they gave Air Peace the slots in Dubai, we have removed the suspension on the Emirates. So, this is happening now, I think the UAE will come and tell us why they are now doing what they are doing.
“From the Nigerian aspect, everything is good, no issue. I spoke with the DG of NCAA, no issue from our part. They are the one to come and tell us what is going on again. I just pray that their action will not make another counter-reaction from us.”
FG mulls fresh lockdown, says omicron responsible for rising cases
.Restricts religious gatherings to 50% capacity
The Federal Government has warned that it may be forced to issue restrictions on gatherings and impose curfews if the current surge in the number of COVID-19 cases continues.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman, Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said this in a statement yesterday.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had recently said the nation recorded a 500 percent increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks as a result of the Delta and Omicron variants.
The SGF yesterday stressed that Nigeria’s healthcare system was already overburdened.
He urged Nigerians to celebrate responsibly by taking the necessary precautionary measures during the Christmas and New Year holiday seasons.
He said Nigeria experiencing the fourth wave of coronavirus as new cases had continued to rise owing to “a mix of very low vaccination coverage, increased travels and movements, reduced compliance to public health social measures and highly transmissible Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant now circulating in the country.”
He said: “Avoid activities that involve mass gathering especially in enclosed spaces, as follows; Families are advised to limit the number of visitors to their homes and put in place precautionary safety measures; any gathering in excess of 50 people should be done in open spaces with physical distancing.
“Indoor religious congregation should be limited to 50 percent capacity with full compliance to public health social measures; and Face masks and hand sanitizers should be used at all times regardless of vaccination status while in public spaces.
“Avoid non-essential interstate travel at this period as this increases the risk of spreading infection from one place to another. People who intend to travel are encouraged to take a rapid COVID-19 test to confirm status as many infected persons are asymptomatic.”
He asked citizens to take the full dose of COVID-19 vaccine and the booster dose to reduce your risk of severe infection and death in case of exposure to COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Director-General, NCDC, Ifedayo Adetifa, said the omicron variant was responsible for the increase in cases in the country in the last few weeks.
Speaking on AIT’s Kakaaki programme yesterday, said: “It (omicron) is responsible for the increase that we’re seeing in COVID-19 cases, but it’s also important to note that even as that is happening, the existing Delta variant is still persisting. It’s either slowly being replaced or has already been replaced by omicron.”
Adetifa said some isolation and treatment centres in cities, especially those with typically the highest burden, had begun to fill up.
According to him, omicron is more transmissible than the Delta variant and has a shorter incubation period.
He said the reluctance of Nigerians to adhere to COVID-19 protocols or get vaccinated “is allowing transmission to continue in an unmitigated fashion which means that there’s a risk, even with moderate and severe cases, our health care system may get overwhelmed”.
He said the government might be forced to put more stringent measures such as restrictions on gathering and curfews “if the health system gets overwhelmed with cases.”
CAN warns against violating COVID-19 protocol at Christmas
The Christian Association of Nigeria yesterday warned Nigerians against complacency during the Christmas and New Year celebrations due to the rising COVID-19 cases in the country.
CAN President and Co-Chairman, Nigeria Inter Religious Council, Samson Ayokunle, said this in his Christmas message.
“I plead with all Nigerians not to let off their guards on COVID-19 protocols.”
He described the current security challenges across the nation as terrible things of great concern.
He said: “Let all the killings, the kidnapping of our fellow brothers and sisters and all other acts of wickedness stop because God is going to judge these acts on the Day of Judgment.
“At this season of Christmas, I plead with those at the corridor of power to use it to bring relief and joy to the citizens of this country. It is the good you have done now that people would remember tomorrow.”