The Federal Government, last week, placed a sixmonth travel ban on 100 passengers who failed to undergo the compulsory COVID- 19 test after their return to the country. According to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 containment, the persons involved would not be allowed to travel out of the country until June 30.
“The PTF has placed travel restrictions on the first 100 passengers for non-compliance to the mandatory Day 7 post-arrival COVID-19 test,” Chairman of PTF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, said. The restriction is effective from January 1, 2021.
Although the names of the defaulters were not made public, their passport numbers were attached to the tweet. Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), said: “Defaulting passengers have been notified and will be prevented from travelling out of the country during this period.” Mustapha had, last week, in a briefing in Abuja, hinted that sanctions would be placed on the defaulters.
He said that the names of the passengers would be published on January 1, 2021, while the suspension of the passports would last for six months. The SGF pointed out that the response of the Federal Government to COVID-19 was challenged by the carefree attitude of some Nigerians and state governments, who have dropped their guards against the pandemic.
This included reduced testing in some states and the non-adherence to the protocols guiding the containment of the scourge. “Week 52 has so far given us the highest number of infections in a single week to date. Our analysis shows that 16 out of every 100 tests carried out are positive. “We are also seeing increasing transmission among younger people and this is not considered good and safe.
We must, therefore, exercise utmost restraint by taking responsibility,” he said. We commend the Federal Government for making good its threat to blacklist the defaulting passengers from international travels. That is because we believe that arresting the surge of the virus in the country has much to do with restricting the activities of cross border travellers into the country. There is no doubt that coronavirus is ravaging many countries in Europe, America and some other African countries more than it is in Nigeria.
It is only simple logic that the bearers of the second wave of the disease into the country are people who returned from such countries that are currently high risk areas. That is why we believe that apart from the 100 defaulters that have been banned from travelling, there is also need to tighten our borders from those travelling in and out of the country. We do not believe that coronavirus is not in Nigeria.
We are, however, certain that restrictions and tighter controls at land, sea and airports would go a long way at limiting the rate of infections in the country, while we battle with the community transmissions that are already with us.
There is, therefore, the need for the Federal Government to go beyond the travel ban on only 100 persons and check the movement of people into the country at this time. It is also important that the COVID-19 results presented by travellers are weighed appropriately. Of late, there have been reports of people presenting fake results to make it across the borders. We know the tendency of Nigerians to compromise any process through one way or the other. We urge the appropriate authorities at the borders not to allow the process to be compromised for personal gains against the interest of the country.
Added to that is the need for states across the country to take full responsibility of the enforcement of the protocols in their states. That is by way of large scale testing of citizens and the enforcement of non-pharmaceutical measures such as the wearing of face masks, washing of hands and social distancing by the people.
Ordinarily, these should not be serious issues for the people to abide by. But in a situation where many Nigerians erroneously believe that coronavirus is a hoax or does not exist at all is by itself a looming danger for the country. It is inconceivable that with the number of deaths and cases recorded in the country since February last year and the global panic created by the virus, some Nigerians still think till date that the issue is not serious enough.
We are aware that against the PTF’s instruction that schools should not resume until January 18, some states of the federation have opened their schools. We only hope that they prepared for the eventual consequences of such decisions.
With the massive travels across the country during the Christmas and New Year celebrations, the events, ceremonies and public events held all over the country, the statistic could be grim for the country this January.
We submit that COVID-19 is real. We also submit that it requires the efforts of all Nigerians, government, churches, mosques, schools and businesses to stem what could be an ugly trend from happening. There is the need for stricter enforcement of COVID-19 protocols at all levels to save the country from a disaster before the vaccines eventually arrive. That is if the vaccines would solve the problem eventually.