COVID-19: Travel Restrictions Ease as US, UK, France Adopt WHO-approved Vaccination
•WHO to spend $55bn on vaccination of 70% world population
Gboyega Akinsanmi in Lagos and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The world is set to witness a return of normalcy in international air travel and movements across the globe as the United States, United Kingdom, and France have announced the relaxation of COVID-19 imposed restrictions for incoming travellers.
This is coming as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has reeled out a new document to vaccinate 70 per cent of the world’s population against COVID-19 by the middle of 2022, at an estimated cost of $55 billion.
On Friday, the United States said it would open its doors to international visitors vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccines authorised by US regulators or WHO.
The United Kingdom and France have also issued similar directives to accept international visitors based on WHO’s approved standards on COVID-19 vaccination certification.
Before now, travel exchanges had posed some difficulties to nationals from various countries due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, with its attendant public health restrictions.
According to reports by Reuters yesterday, the United States had said vaccines that are Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-authorised/approved or listed for emergency use by WHO would meet the criteria for admittance into its territory.
The report said the White House had earlier announced the US in November would lift travel restrictions on air travellers from 33 countries including China, India, Brazil, and most of Europe who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
It did not however specify then which vaccines would be accepted.
Quoting CDC spokeswoman, Reuters said on Friday that, “Six vaccines that are FDA authorised/approved or listed for emergency use by WHO will meet the criteria for travel to the US.”
CDC was also quoted as saying that it had earlier last week informed airlines of the vaccines that would be accepted to help them prepare their systems.
THISDAY gathered that the President Joe Biden administration had come under considerate pressure to accept WHO-approved vaccines since the US Food and Drug Administration-authorised vaccines are not in use in all countries.
With the latest approval, “the United States will admit fully vaccinated air travellers from the 26 so-called Schengen countries in Europe as well as Britain, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran, and Brazil. The unprecedented US restrictions have barred most non-US citizens who were in those countries within the past 14 days.
Consequently, the new COVID-19 vaccine requirements will now apply to nearly all foreign nationals flying to the US – including those not subject to the prior restrictions”.
The report however said that the CDC is expected to still finalise and publish new contact tracing rules for international visitors, which is sent to the White House for review on September 15.
The United Kingdom had also announced the lifting of restrictions placed on visitors from Nigeria.
In an updated statement on its website on Thursday, the UK government gave Nigeria’s vaccination efforts clean bill health by adding the country to the list of countries with approved vaccines.
It stated that fully vaccinated travellers from Nigeria would be able to enter England from Monday, October 11, 2021, without the need to provide a pre-departure test or undertake a day 8 test or self-isolate for ten days.
Before the latest position by the UK, fully vaccinated travellers from Nigeria still needed to “self-isolate for 10 days”.
“From Monday, October 11, 2021, fully vaccinated travellers from Nigeria will be able to enter England without the need to provide a pre-departure test or undertake a day eight test or self-isolate for 10 days, although we still need to book and pay for a day two test. This policy applies to those fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca (including Covidshield), Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson and Johnson),” the statement reads.
“If you arrive in England before that date, you must follow the rules for people who are not fully vaccinated. If you arrive after that, you can use a vaccine certificate to prove your vaccination status.
“You must be able to prove that you have been fully vaccinated under a vaccination programme and have a valid proof of vaccination recognised by the British Government (for Nigeria, the certificates with valid QR codes as issued by Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) are recognised).”
Acting British High Commissioner, Ben Llewellyn-Jones, said: “The exemption of fully-vaccinated Nigerians travelling to the UK from providing a pre-departure test and self-isolating for 10 days, is a very welcome development. To make this happen, we have been working closely with NPHCDA on recognising Nigeria’s vaccine certification, which we have now done”.
In what seemed like a gradual normalisation of international movements since the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, France also announced that it is opening its borders to Nigerian travellers and others with evidence of COVID19 vaccination certification.
Speaking at a brief ceremony at the formal delivery of the 501,600 doses of Astrazeneca COVID-19 vaccines donated by his country, the French Ambassador, Jerome Pasquier, said that passengers from Nigeria no longer need to have a COVID-19 test before boarding the plane.
“If you have proof of vaccination then you can go to France. You do not need to have a COVID-19 test before boarding the plane.
“You do not need to have a COVID-19 test when you are in France, but with your certificate from Nigeria, you can get tested, which is required in some places around the world.
“So, both regulations apply to Nigerian nationals, or any other nationality, because we know wherever the progress is, it doesn’t make a difference.”
WHO to Spend $55bn on vaccination of 70% world population
Meanwhile, the WHO has reeled out a new document to vaccinate 70 per cent of the world’s population against COVID-19 by the middle of 2022, at an estimated cost of $55 billion.
WHO also revealed in its new document that 40 per cent of all countries of the world will receive the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2021.
These targets are highlighted in the new document of the global health institution titled, ‘Strategy to Achieve Global Covid-19 Vaccination by Mid-2022’ officially released on its website on October 7.
In the 16-page strategy brief, the WHO observed that every country “has been affected by COVID-19, with nearly a quarter of a billion cases and almost 5 million deaths reported globally as of the end of September 2021.
“Despite the stunning speed with which highly effective and safe vaccines have been developed, new waves of disease are still pushing health systems to the breaking point, increasingly transmissible variants are emerging, some survivors are suffering serious long-term sequela.”
Failing to respond decisively to contain the spread of the pandemic worldwide, the global health institution cited a report in which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that global economic loss could exceed $5.3 trillion by 2026.
Consequent to its devastative implications on the global economy and human security globally, the WHO outlined the urgent actions required by the global community to vaccinate 70 percent of the world’s population against COVID-19 by the middle of 2022.
It noted that the goal “is to substantially increase population immunity globally to protect people everywhere from disease, protect the health system, fully restart economies, restore the health of society, and lower the risk of new variants.”
It mapped out the total financing required to vaccinate 70 per cent of the population in low-income countries (LICs) and low-middle income countries (LMICs) worldwide for $55 billion.
Specifically, the global health institution claimed that $55 billion would facilitate a fully vaccinating 70 per cent of the global population, which requires at least 11 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by June 2022.
Firming up the global response to COVID-19, the WHO explained its strategic partnership with the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX), African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), and other partners to vaccinate 40% of the population of all countries by the end of 2021.
To avoid lopsidedness in the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines, it noted that vaccine supply gaps to COVAX would be closed immediately for countries to reach the 40 per cent target already set for the end of 2021.