As per the promise of Health Minister Osagie Ehanire that the federal government would take further action to tackle the third wave of COVID-19 ravaging India and some other countries, the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 has announced the measures after its meeting last week on Monday. This includes warning Nigerians to be wary of traveling outside the country, especially India, which is experiencing the third wave of COVID-19. South Africa, Brazil and Turkey were also included in the travel advisory.
This is not the first time that the federal government has adopted such a measure on COVID-19. In August of last year, the federal government hinted that it would apply the principle of reciprocity with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic by only allowing flights from countries that allow flights from Nigeria. . We understand the feelings of nationalism behind this decision. But beyond that, there is the need for rigor on the part of governments around the world to make the best decisions on global or other issues according to their national interest. We know how well our government approached the COVID-19 pandemic and its rush to stop flights in or out of certain countries last year, so weeks after many countries banned flights, Nigerian airspace was still open to all kinds of flights. The most serious governments would not want to take risks with our kind of attitude on this matter of life and death.
National Incident Director, PSC, Dr Mukhtar Muhammad, who announced the latest measures, said: “As we continue to reopen the economy, we must also be aware of events around the world. The President (Secretary of the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha) and the Honorable Minister of Health (Prof. Osagie Ehanire), referred to specific incidents in India, Turkey, Brazil and South Africa. We sympathize with the people of these countries because it is really a very trying time, especially for India which has over 300,000 cases per day and over 2,000 deaths. “
This newspaper also takes this opportunity to sympathize with the affected countries. But then the law must be made, not only in the interest of the country but in the interest of humanity. By taking steps to ensure that fewer people travel to these countries, the government is not only trying to protect its own nationals, but it is also helping these other countries reduce the number of people at risk of contracting the disease.
As the chair of the task force noted, “India is a prime destination for medical tourism in Nigeria. We know that many Nigerians love to travel – go to India, but now… we urge Nigerians to limit all their trips to only essential travel, especially to these affected countries.
It is difficult for the government to ban travel to or from India as there is no direct flight from Nigeria to this country. So the best the government can do is issue a travel advisory or at best ensure that connecting flights from India and these other countries are carefully screened for COVID-19. every time they arrive in the country.
These measures are inevitable, especially for a country like India which has overtaken Brazil to become the second most affected country in the world. According to www.worldometer.info, this country has 17,306,300 cases of COVID-19 out of a global figure of 147 million; while the country has also recorded 195,116 deaths out of 3.1 million worldwide. It also recorded 14,296,640 recoveries. A third mutation of the B.1.617 strain has now been identified in at least four Indian states.
Let us not forget that some of the factors responsible for the resurgence of the pandemic in India are also prevalent in Nigeria. Besides being third world countries, illiteracy, poverty, etc. are endemic in both countries. Many Indians have hardly taken the pandemic with the seriousness it deserves, as in Nigeria. In fact, wearing face masks has almost become a forgotten issue in the country, even though many people no longer take other COVID-19 protocols seriously. Indeed, it is still a miracle that COVID-19 has not recorded so many victims in Nigeria despite the nonchalant attitude of the government and the population in the face of the pandemic. As we speak, some states in Nigeria only do one test per week. This is useless.
The fact that some countries are experiencing a third wave of the pandemic is enough of a warning to all that it is not over yet. The government must support the pandemic crusade while Nigerians must be prepared to adhere to all necessary precautionary measures to keep it at bay.
While the travel advisory issued last week is welcome, it is urgent to complete these measures to make them effective.