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COVID-19: FG, N’Assembly consider UK, US flights’ ban

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The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Aviation, Senator Smart Adeyemi, on Monday said the National Assembly and the Ministry of Aviation were considering banning flights from the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries with high rates of COVID-19.

Adeyemi, who stated this in an interview with The Punch in Abuja, said a  decision on the issue would be announced next week.

The Federal Government’s plan may not be unconnected with pressures on it to stop further spread of coronavirus by banning flights from nations with high rates of the virus.

Recall that the President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Prof Innocent Ujah, had in an interview with The PUNCH on Sunday, said travellers from the UK and the US were worsening COVID-19 cases in Nigeria.

The NMA president stated, “Government knows that they (travellers from the UK and the US) are the ones responsible for increase in cases and the results have shown that and government knows what they should do.”

Although the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 had on Thursday imposed fresh requirements on passengers from the UK and South Africa, flights from the two countries were not banned.

The PTF only opened registers for travellers from the two countries because of deadlier strains of coronavirus discovered there.

It, however, said there were no new strains of the virus in Nigeria. But there are fears that travellers who obtained fake COVID-19 results could have brought the new virus into the country.

According to worldometers.info, as of 6:55pm on Monday, the US had recorded 19,589,952 COVID-19 cases with 341,332 deaths.

The UK had 2,329,730 COVID-19 cases with 71,109 deaths. Sweden had 396,048 cases with 8,279 recorded.

As of Sunday, Nigeria had recorded 84,414 cases of the virus with 1,254 deaths. But deaths from the virus have increased sharply since the second wave started last month.

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control had said after a drop in the death rate from September to November, it went up to 74 this month.

Adeyemi, in the interview with The PUNCH, said the National Assembly and the Federal Government were concerned about the second wave of COVID-19.

He stated that the joint National Assembly Committees on Aviation, the Aviation Ministry and agencies in the sector had been holding regular meetings in the past few days on the matter.

He said the meetings were seriously discussing possible impacts of the proposed ban and other associated issues.

Adeyemi said, “We are still trying to study the situation so as to know the appropriate steps to take. It is a very sad situation no doubt.

“The National Assembly and the Aviation Ministry are looking at what really should be done on the call to ban some of the flights coming in, not only from the United Kingdom, but also other countries where the pandemic spreads are more severe.

“The National Assembly Joint Committee on Aviation is discussing with the Ministry of Aviation and we are looking at what can be done and the right steps to be taken.

“COVID-19 is of great concern to everyone and it has been proven that it is real. Nigeria as a country has been able to contain the situation because our people are very conscious of the protocols.

“The fact that we are experiencing the second wave is a concern. So, the ministry and the National Assembly are considering an outright ban of flights from the pandemic prone countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, the Asian countries, Sweden, among others.

“We have been studying the situation. We would arrive at a conclusion in the next few days. We are looking at the figures, the rate of infection, the manner of infection and government response.

“We are studying the implications of the outright ban of flights and whether it would be of any importance to the containment of the virus.

“We have protocols for visitors arriving in Nigeria which we make sure are being strictly observed. Notwithstanding, in the next few days, we would know what to do.

“The Senate and the House of Representatives committees on Aviation, the Ministry of Aviation, and all the agencies under the ministry have been engaging in regular meetings over the situation.

“By next week, we would come up with a definite conclusion on whether there would be an outright ban of flights from the affected countries or the next steps to take.”

COVID-19

FG declares 132 violators of COVID-19 travel advisory wanted

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The Federal Government through the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 has declared another 132 travellers wanted for violating a recently issued travel advisory.

The PSC, on May 1, 2021, issued a travel advisory, instructing travellers arriving from India, Brazil and Turkey, or who had visited the countries within 14 days of their trip to Nigeria, to observe certain protocols, including compulsory quarantine and testing in designated facilities on arrival.

However, the committee observed that many travellers had been violating the advisory, leading to earlier announcement of 90 violators as wanted persons on May 9.

A statement on Thursday by the Chairman of the PSC and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, the Committee announced the 132 additional violators of the advisory, who entered through Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, advising members of the public to be on the lookout, describing the persons as immediate health hazard.

It stated, “The Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 on 1st May, 2021 issued a Travel Advisory for Passengers arriving in Nigeria from Brazil, India and Turkey.

“These precautionary measures are a necessary step to mitigate the risk of importation of variants of concern and break the chain of transmission to the population.

“Under the new measures, passengers arriving from/or that have visited any of these three countries within fourteen (14) days prior to the visit to Nigeria, are required to follow mandatory arrival quarantine and testing protocols in designated facilities.

“The Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) has however observed that while most of the arriving passengers dutifully observed the guidelines, some (Nigerians and Foreigners) have violated them in contravention of the provisions of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Health Regulations Protection, 2021.

“Accordingly, the underlisted persons who arrived in Nigeria through the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja and whose names and passport numbers are displayed, have been declared Persons of Interest (POI) on account of posing considerable danger to overall public health and for the violation of Nigeria COVID-19 travel protocol by evading the mandatory seven-day quarantine for persons arriving from restricted countries.

“Members of the public are by this notice advised that these persons of interest constitute an immediate health hazard to the society.

“They must therefore transport themselves safely, to the nearest state public health departments within 48 hours of this notice for immediate evaluation and call the Port Health Services, Federal Ministry of Health.”

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COVID-19: Bayelsa imposes curfew from 8pm to 6am

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Bayelsa State government has imposed a dusk to dawn curfew in the state from 8pm to 6am daily.

The Commissioner for Information, Orientation and Strategy, Mr Ayibaina Duba, in a statement on Friday, said the curfew was part of the measures to prevent the spread of the surging trait of the new variants of COVID-19.

He said the curfew takes effect from Sunday, May 16, 2021 until further notice.

Duba said: “In view of this development, movements within as well as in and out of the state through the major entry points including Bayelsa/Delta states’ boundary at Adagbabiri, Gloryland Drive at Igbogene and Bayelsa/Rivers states’ boundary at Mbiama are prohibited during the hours of the curfew.

“Relevant security agencies have been mobilised to enforce the curfew. Commuters and members of the general public are advised to take note of this development.”

 

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COVID-19: Indian strain detected in Osun, Edo

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A new COVID-19 strain, currently ravaging India, has been found in Nigeria.
The reported detection of the devastating strain in Osun and Edo states must have jolted the Federal Government and prompted it to take its latest actions announced on Monday, according a report by The PUNCH.
The strain was reportedly detected by the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases in the Redeemers University, Ede, Osun State, about three weeks ago and has been communicated to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.
The FG on Monday announced a number of measures to avert the spread of the new strains in Nigeria including restricted gatherings at worship centres and banning nightclubs after the devastating strain had spread to 23 countries including South Africa.
The detection had been listed on GISAID, a global science initiative providing open access to genomic data of influenza viruses.

A notification dated April 25, 2021, sent by Prof. Christian Hapi of the ACEGID to the NCDC, stated, “We have found five sequences of the India B.1.617 in the country, specifically in Edo and Osun states.”
However, The PUNCH learnt that subsequent observations showed that so far, the strain had not shown the same kind of viciousness displayed in India where 400,000 persons were infected daily and 157 died per hour.
Speaking with one of our correspondents, Hapi said the information was sent to the NCDC two weeks ago.
Hapi, however, clarified that strain in India has two more mutations than the one identified in Nigeria which makes the one in India more aggressive.
“What we have is the B1.617 from India. That is the variant they had but that variant has now evolved beyond the mutation that we identified.
“The one India evolved by two mutations. It is the same strain with India but their own now has a couple of mutations. So, it is the same as what we detected but also different in characteristics.”
Virologist and Chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Professor Oyewale Tomori, told one of our correspondents that he was also aware of the detection of the Indian strain.
Tomori said it was important for the government to announce the detection of the Indian strain.
He further said there was a need to increase testing, adding that many states were no longer conducting test for COVID-19.
“The Indian strain is not as fierce in Nigeria yet but we are not doing enough testing,” Tomori said.

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