As part of temporary measures to prevent further spread into the UK of the dreaded Omicron variant of COVID-19, the British government has announced the decision to add Nigeria in the its travel red list from Monday.
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, said the decision to add Nigeria to the list followed 21 cases of Omicron reported in England, which were linked to travelers from Nigeria.
Laing described Nigeria’s inclusion as temporary measures that would be examined at the three-week review point on December 20 in line with the guidelines spelt out by the Prime Minister on November 27.
The review after three weeks would be to ensure the precaurionary measures remained necessary and proportionate to the situation.
“I know that this decision will have a significant impact on people in both our countries, particularly at this time of year. This decision is a precautionary measure to protect public health in the UK, whilst we try to understand this new variant.
“We continue to work very closely with the Nigerian authorities in tackling the pandemic and commend their ongoing work,” Laing said.
A statement on Saturday announcing the decision read: “From 4 am on Monday 6 December, UK and Irish citizens and residents arriving from Nigeria must isolate in a government-approved managed quarantine facility for 10 days, and receive two negative PCR tests, as further precautionary action is taken against the Omicron variant.
“Currently, the majority of cases in the UK have clear links to overseas travel from South Africa and Nigeria, and over the past week, 21 reported Omicron cases in England originating from Nigeria.
“A temporary travel ban will therefore be introduced for all non-UK and non-Irish citizens and residents who have been in Nigeria in the last 10 days, meaning they will be refused entry into the UK.”
The statement however said the temporary travel ban does not apply to travelers who have stayed airside and only transited through Nigeria, while changing flights.
Travellers from Nigeria, the statement clarified, would still be able to transit English airports, provided they have the necessary transit visa.
The statement said the additional measures adopted by the UK government were vital to delay the import of additional cases and slow the rise in Omicron cases within the UK.
Nigeria’s addition to the red list followed the 10 countries added last weekend, as more countries around the world continue to strengthen their travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant
Other countries that unfolded ttavel restrictions since the break out of the latest variant include the US, France and Ireland, which require passengers to take pre-departure tests.
Following the decision, the UK government announced that all vaccinated passengers arriving in the UK must take a day 2 PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.
Since then, the UK authorities said geographical spread of Omicron has increased considerably, with 37 countries around the world now reporting Omicron cases and over 134 cases identified in the UK.
New analysis conducted by the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) revealed the window between infection and infectiousness may be shorter for the Omicron variant, a development, the agency said, increased the efficacy of pre-departure testing, as it is more likely to identify positive cases before travel.
The UKHSA said it would continue to monitor the situation closely, in partnership with scientific and public health organisations across the world, while the UK government was working collaboratively with the World Health Organization (WHO) and countries around the world to better understand the new variant and possible mitigations.
Given the reduced incubation period of the Omicron variant, the UK authorities said passengers were advised to take the pre-departure test as close as possible to their scheduled departure to the UK and no earlier than 48 hours before travelling.
“Anyone arriving from Nigeria before 4 am Monday 6 December, will be advised and strongly encouraged to isolate at home for 10 days from the beginning of their arrival in England.
“Their household should also self-isolate for 10 days with them. Affected individuals will be contacted and offered free PCR tests to be taken on day 8 after their arrival.
“Travellers should not attempt to travel to the UK from a red list country without a Managed Quarantine Service (MQS) booking, as they will not be able to board a flight and could be subject to a Fixed Penalty Notice at the UK border.
“You must book your managed quarantine package before you travel to England using the booking portal administered by Corporate Travel Management (CTM).
“Arrivals to the UK will need to meet the UK’s health and border requirements and comply with the relevant quarantine restrictions if coming from a red country, or if not fully vaccinated. If you do not have the correct documentation ready to meet UK health and border requirements, you may delay yourself and others, be denied boarding, or face a fine.
As a further precaution, the UK government said the Managed Quarantine Service has contracted several new hotels to enter service this week, in response to the likely numbers of UK residents who will want to travel from Nigeria before Christmas.
To guide travelers with relevant travel information, the British Embassy statement said the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) would continue to offer tailored consular assistance to British nationals in country in need of support overseas on a 24/7 basis.