As the Omicron variant of Corona Virus spreads across the world, some countries are beginning to review their travel relationship with Nigeria. Canada was the first country to restrict Nigerians from entering that country after two of its citizens who arrived in the country from Nigeria tested positive to Omicron.
A few days later, the United Kingdom followed with a travel restriction on Nigerians and visitors to Nigeria in the last ten days from 6th December 2021, except for the UK and Irish citizens.
According to health officials, at least three Nigerians have tested positive for Omicron.
The travel bans are also sending shockwaves across Nigeria introducing fear of more travel restrictions against Nigerians and even a possible lockdown in the near term if the Omicron virus isn’t contained.
Captain Roland Iyayi, the Former CEO, Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and the CEO of Topbrass Aviation told our correspondent on the phone that whilst countries are at liberty to make whatever decisions they want to safeguard the health of their citizens but the Omicron thing is not peculiar to Nigeria or Africa. “It is in Europe yet they haven’t banned the European flights. So probably there is something that is given them the impression the problem is from Africa. They may have their own agenda” he said.
He however noted that in spite of the travel restrictions, there is unlikely a lockdown will happen again.
“If African countries will have to endure the sort of lockdown that happened in 2020, their economies will collapse totally because even now, with all stimulants that the government has injected into the system, yet the economy is still struggling,” he said.
According to him, if “we have a full-scale shutdown, some countries cannot even get out of it. I don’t think this is the intention of the western world because they can’t also afford to have an African economic collapse. It will impact them negatively as well” he noted.
The CEO of Cross Wings Air, Air Commodore Hambali Tukur (rtd) noted that the various travel restrictions will impact negatively on Nigeria and other countries affected.
He said this “will obviously have negative effects on the global aviation industry. When the Coronavirus first broke out in 2019, the world responded with a total lockdown thereby bringing to a halt most aviation activities. Passenger revenue dropped sharply so did cargo revenue. Pilot recruitment stopped and so did pilot training. In the same manner aircraft maintenance and associated training grounded to a halt. The aviation industry never had it so bad” he explained.
According to him, if “the current trend of lockdown in some countries and inbound travel restrictions continue, the world may well be heading back to those infamous days. But must we go down that path again?” he asked.
He noted that the United Nations (UN) is worried about travel restrictions being imposed by a growing number of countries.
“As a growing number of countries have imposed flight bans on southern African nations due to concerns over the Omicron variant, the World Health Organisation the UN health agency urged them to follow the evidence and International Health Regulations calling for borders to remain open.”
One is inclined to agree with the UN caution Tukur said adding that “while it is understandable that countries will make efforts to curb the growth of the omicron variant, there is need for caution not to repeat history and send the world into serious economic problems.”
“It will be wise to follow scientific evidence and apply only necessary measures in containing the virus. Any further lockdown or unnecessary travel ban will only hurt the aviation industry the more” he said.