All you need to know about UK's inclusion of Nigeria on a COVID-19 travel ban list [Pulse Explainer]

The Omicron COVID-19 variant is being treated as an African virus by a slew of developed nations.

President Muhammadu Buhari (L) and UK PM Boris Johnson (PM News)

The novel coronavirus disease, popularly called COVID-19, continues to alter the global travel and tourism landscapes as we know them.

On Sunday, December 5, 2021, the United Kingdom (UK) placed Nigeria on a travel ban list by suspending visitor visa applications from Africa's most populous nation.

The development arrives just hours after the UK added Nigeria to a travel red list.

Travel restrictions and bans are making their way back into global policymaking no thanks to the B.1.1.529 Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The Omicron variant which is causing widespread panic across the world, has been designated as a Variant Of Concern (VOC).

What does this all mean for Nigerians?

This means that if you are a Nigerian or hail from any of the southern African countries on the red list, you are no longer allowed free entry into the UK for now.

It also means that "If you apply for a visit visa in a red list country and you meet the UK Immigration Rules, your application will be paused.

"You will not receive a decision on your visit visa application whilst red list travel restrictions remain in place," according to a statement from the British High Commission.

If you intend to travel to the UK from Nigeria for a short visit for tourism purposes, to visit family and friends, undertake short-term business activities (for example, attending meetings), undertaking short-term studies (under 6 months), taking part in research or exchange programmes as an academic, medical reasons (for example, receiving private medical treatment), you won't be able to do so until the ban is lifted.

What are other countries up to?

The Canadian government has similarly placed Nigeria on a travel ban list that has at least 10 African countries, due to Omicron variant concerns.

The ban does not affect Canadian citizens, permanent residents and others with status under the Indian Act, but they will be subjected to enhanced pre-entry and arrival testing, screening, and quarantine measures.

In the United States, you have to prove that you are COVID-19 negative if you are a traveler from Nigeria, before you will be allowed entry.

Regardless of whether you have been vaccinated against the virus or not, a valid COVID-19 test result is required for travelers from Nigeria who intend to visit the United States.

Japan had to backtrack on a travel ban following public criticism.

There are indications that a couple or more European or Western countries will soon impose similar travel restrictions on Nigerians or Africans, even though the Omicron variant was not first detected on African soil.

The travel restrictions have been labelled "racist" by a wide spectrum of African leaders and Africans at home and in the diaspora, with Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres describing the policies as "travel apartheid...which is unacceptable."

Guterres adds that bans that isolate any one country or region are “not only deeply unfair and punitive, they are ineffective."

His comments echo those from the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said blanket bans are “not evidence-based” or effective on their own.

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