By Ismail Auwal

Nigerian Government has said it is not considering the imposition of travel restrictions despite the growing threat of Omicron, a recently discovered COVID-19 variant.

The government’s position was disclosed by the Health Minister, Osagie Ehanire, on Sunday night.

The European Union and countries in the Americas and Asia announced flight restrictions to many African countries, including Nigeria.

The flight restrictions have, however, been condemned by many experts including the World Health Organisation as being discriminatory. The experts say that although the Omicron variant was first isolated in South Africa, it had been detected in other non-African countries.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) announced three cases of Omicron in the country on Wednesday, saying they were detected in recent travellers to South Africa.

Speaking on this development on Wednesday night, on Channels Television’s ‘Politics Today’ programme, Mr Ehanire said the imposition of the travel ban is not being considered by the Nigerian government yet.

He said it would be wrong to describe the Omicron variant as deadly, for now.

“Up till now, it cannot be classified as deadly because of zero fatalities…no severe illness has been reported as about 246 (cases) have been identified. I think about 86 In the last 24 hours but have not reported any fatalities or any severe illness, not to my knowledge,” the minister said.

“And of course, not rushing into judgment. And we’re also not applauding any lockdowns or any prohibition, banning of flights or movement of people until we know more.

“We believe that the harm it will do to livelihoods and to plants and to economists might be more than the pursuit value that might be derived from shutting down the movement between countries,” he said.

Mr Ehanire said Nigeria had, as of the time of the interview, recorded only six cases of the Omicron virus while over 300 persons have been identified as carriers in South Africa.


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