Lara Adejoro

The Federal Government on Tuesday said it was alarmed by the ongoing COVID-19 surge in China but insisted that it would not impose restrictions on travellers from the Asian country.

The Coordinator and Technical Head of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Dr Muktar Muhammad, who stated this in an interview with The PUNCH in Abuja, said cases of the virus have not increased in the country.

Explaining the need for Nigerians to be on the alert, he said, “There is a cause for alarm for us; I mean the technical team, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, the Federal Ministry of Health, the port health, everybody is vigilant in that direction, but for the general public, we do not have any red alert to warrant us to issue any restriction.”

There have been reports of an increase in COVID-19 cases in China after the country abandoned strict rules to contain the spread of the virus.

The PUNCH reports that countries like Italy, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, India, Malaysia, Israel, Qatar, Taiwan, Spain, and Morocco have imposed fresh travel restrictions on travellers from China.

WHO’s Friday meeting

The World Health Organisation had last Friday met with high-level officials from China’s National Health Commission and the National Disease Control and Prevention Administration about the current surge in COVID-19 cases, to seek further information on the situation, and to offer its expertise and further support.

The WHO asked for regular sharing of specific and real-time data on the epidemiological situation, including more genetic sequencing data, data on disease impact, including hospitalisations, intensive care unit admissions, and deaths, and data on vaccinations delivered and vaccination status, especially in vulnerable people and those over 60 years old.

However, the Federal Government said there were no red flags yet to change the COVID-19 protocol, which it relaxed in December following a sustained reduction in COVID transmission across the country.

Muhammad added, “Up to this moment, we have not seen any red flags. We have not seen anything that will make us change our protocol for now. We have not detected any new variants; no significant new variants have been detected even globally, and the variant they claim the Chinese are spreading is not more transmissible or virulent.

“There is no increase in hospitalisation; we have continued to do our sequencing, and we have not detected any new variant. People that are turning out to be positive, but not leading to hospitalisation or death, are the same group of people who are vulnerable to COVID-19 and are still getting it.”

The PSC coordinator, however, assured Nigerians that strict measures would be taken accordingly if need be.

“However, if we notice it and it is necessary, we will not hesitate to take that action,” he noted.

Ghana imposes restrictions

Meanwhile, Ghana has also announced new COVID-19 restrictions on Chinese travellers intending to enter the country.

The restrictions will come into force on January 6, 2023, as the Ghana Airports Company Limited announced on its website on Tuesday.

The updated COVID-19 guidelines by the GACL noted that all international passengers, including those from the Economic Community of West African States region, must complete a Port Health Declaration Form before embarkation on a flight to Ghana.

Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo are among the 15 members of ECOWAS.

The guidelines, which were posted on the GACL website, read in part, “All persons arriving in Ghana (citizens, residents, and visitors) who are fully vaccinated will be exempt from any form of testing done either before boarding from the originating country or on arrival in Ghana, except passengers originating their journey from China.

“Passengers originating their journey from China will be required to present a valid negative COVID-19 PCR test result 48 hours before departure from the originating country. In addition, such passengers will be required to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing on arrival at the Kotoka International Airport at no cost.

“All other passengers originating their journey from elsewhere other than China (i.e., Ghanaian citizens, permanent residents of Ghana, or non-Ghanaians), who are partially vaccinated or unvaccinated, will be required to present a valid negative COVID-19 PCR test result in 48 hours before departure from the originating country. In addition, such passengers will be required to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing on arrival at Kotoka International Airport at no cost.

“In addition to the above, passengers may be randomly selected and offered testing on arrival.

“Non-Ghanaians travelling to Kotoka International Airport with fake or forged vaccination certificates shall be quarantined and returned to the point of embarkation at their cost.

“Airlines that bring passengers to Kotoka International Airport who are not fully vaccinated, or passengers departing from China who do not have a valid negative COVID-19 PCR test result in 48 hours before departure, will be surcharged $3500.”

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