Aviation

Omicron: UK, Canada ban flights from Nigeria, others

Access Bank
Nigerian international fliers received mixed news at the weekend with two gateways blocked and passengers stranded at airports, just as one opened after a lull on the  United Arab Emirates (UAE) route after Muhammadu Buhari visited Dubai.

Nigerians can now fly direct to the UAE but they are banned from setting foot in Canada and the United Kingdom, not even for medical tourism, the past time of Buhari and other wealthy Nigerians, including Bola Tinubu.

Within hours of the resumption of flights between Dubai and Abuja and Lagos, the UK announced a ban on flights from Nigeria and nine other African countries in fear of the spread of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus pandemic.

Canada reiterated its own ban on the countries for the same reason, which it had imposed on December 1.

Emirates Airlines said the resumption of flights is based on the condition that passengers from Nigeria will take Covid-19 PCR test within three days before departure and another test on arrival at the UAE.

UK flight ban

British Health Secretary Sajid Javid gave no such caveat when he announced on Saturday a temporary ban on foreign travellers from Nigeria, saying, “only UK residents or citizens of the UK can enter the UK from Nigeria from that point onwards, and they would have to quarantine in one of the relevant hotels.”

Canada said it will not accept results of Covid tests done in Nigeria and nine other African countries – Botswana, Egypt, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe – and banned flights from them.

A day after Javid spoke in London the British High Commission announced in a statement in Abuja that it will “pause making decisions” on visitor visa applications from all red list countries, including Nigeria, until the travel ban is lifted.

“To support the UK Government’s aim to protect public health from COVID-19 and associated variants of concern (VOC), UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) will pause making decisions on visitor visa applications in all red list countries, including Nigeria, until travel restrictions are lifted,” the statement said.

“Visit visas cover travel to the UK for tourism, visiting family and friends, undertaking 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).

“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.

“You will not be able to request a refund of your visa fee once you have given your biometrics at a Visa Application Centre (VAC). If you already hold a valid visit visa and are intending to travel to England as a visitor from a red list country, you will not be allowed to enter.

“Separate guidance is available for travellers entering Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Use https://www.gov.uk/uk-border-control and https://www.gov.uk/guidance/red-list-of-countries-and-territories.

The British High Commission said visas or entry permits from red list countries will only be issued where there are compelling and compassionate circumstances.

“There are only very limited exemptions to travel and entry requirements for critical workers and medical and compassionate cases.

“If you have submitted a visit visa application and you do not wish to withdraw, we will continue to hold your application.

“If you choose to continue with your visa application, you will not receive a decision on your visit visa whilst red list travel restrictions remain in place.”

Canada flight ban

Canada had on November 30 banned travellers from the 10 African countries over concerns about the spread of Omicron.

It explained in the “quick facts” section of its travel advisory that Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and people with status under the Indian Act who have been in the affected countries are allowed entry into Canada.

But they are required to obtain proof of a valid negative Covid test from a third country, which implies they would need an in-transit PCR test result for entry.

“Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and people with status under the Indian Act who have been in these countries – Botswana, Egypt, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe – in the 14 days before travel to Canada will be required to: Obtain, within 72 hours of departure, a valid negative COVID-19 molecular test in a third country before continuing their journey to Canada,” the statement reads.

Travellers from these countries need to “complete testing upon arrival to Canada, regardless of their vaccination status or having had a previous history of testing positive for COVID-19.”

They are “required to complete a test on Day 8 after arrival and quarantine for 14 days …. Those arriving by air will be required to stay in a designated quarantine facility while they await their arrival test result.”

“They will be permitted onward travel once they have received a negative arrival test result. Those arriving by land may be allowed to proceed directly to their suitable quarantine location.

“If they do not have a suitable and robust quarantine plan – where they will not have contact with anyone with whom they haven’t travelled with – or do not have private transportation to their place of quarantine, they will be directed to stay at a designated quarantine facility.

“There will be increased scrutiny of quarantine plans for travellers from these countries and rigorous monitoring to ensure travellers are complying with quarantine measures.

“Further, PHAC is contacting travellers, regardless of their vaccination status or having had a previous history of testing positive for COVID-19, who have entered Canada from these countries in the past 14 days to direct them to be tested and to quarantine while they wait for the results of those tests.”

The protocol came into effect on December 1.

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