Nigeria Records 18,000 Cases of COVID-19 from Inbound Travellers, WHO Warns Virus Constitutes Global Threat

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Onyebuchi Ezigbo

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said that the country recorded 18,000 cases of COVID19 from inbound travellers as at last Sunday, January 16.

This is as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that the pandemic still constitutes an extraordinary threat that continues to adversely affect the health of populations around the world.

Following complaints of delay of passengers at the airport for not meeting all the travel requirements contained in the National International Travel Portal (NITP), the Centre advised travellers to ensure that they complete their registration on the travel portal 24 hours prior to travel date.

A statement signed by Director General of NCDC, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, cautioned against violation of the travel protocol, adding that the associated risk of disease transmission is not trivial.

He said: “As of 16th January 2022, over 18,000 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded from inbound travellers to Nigeria. Therefore, the associated risk of disease transmission is not trivial.

“We are aware of reports of travellers to Nigeria who have experienced delays at the airport for not meeting all the travel requirements as stated on the NITP.

“To ensure a seamless use of the travel portal, the NCDC urges the public to adhere strictly to the guidance on the travel portal. Registration on the travel portal prior to departure should be done immediately your negative COVID-19 test result is obtained, preferably 24 hrs before your travel date.”

The Centre card payments are also recommended over bank transfers especially if registration on the portal is done less than 24 hours before departure as highlighted by the disclaimer on the travel portal.

According to Adetifa, since the resumption of international flights post COVID-19 lockdown in Nigeria on 5th September 2020, the portal remains an effective means of preventing the importation of COVID-19 via air travel which reduces the risk of further spread of the virus and its variants in the country.

He explained that the NITP has been updated frequently overtime adding that more recently, there was an upgrade in October 2021, to enable a more user-friendly experience for travellers, laboratories, and other users.

The NCDC said the decision to make repeat tests mandatory in Nigeria was based on the review of COVID-

19 test positivity data among returnees to Nigeria during the first and subsequent waves of the pandemic.

“This was necessary for ensuring a balance between our mandate to protect the health of Nigerians from more infections and supporting the restart of the economy including international travel,” he said.

Also the Centre said that card payments are recommended over bank transfers especially if registration on the portal is done less than 24 hours before departure as highlighted by the disclaimer.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued by WHO Director General, Dr.Tedros Ghebreyesus after the 10th meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) on COVID-19) pandemic that took place in Geneva, Switzerland, the world health body said that a more coordinated international response is required to contain the situation.

According to the statement, “The Committee unanimously agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic still constitutes an extraordinary event that continues to adversely affect the health of populations around the world, poses a risk of international spread and interference with international traffic, and requires a coordinated international response.”

It said that the Committee advised countries of the world to continue to use evidence-informed public health and social measures, therapeutics, diagnostics, and vaccines for COVID-19, and to share response experiences with WHO.

“States Parties are advised to regularly adjust their response strategies by monitoring their epidemiological situation, assessing their vulnerabilities including their health system capacity, as well as considering the adherence to and attributable impact of individual and combined PHSM.

“Where isolation and quarantine of large numbers of cases and contacts is potentially disrupting critical infrastructure (including healthcare services),” it said.

WHO further said countries may need to modify isolation and quarantine periods, with the introduction of testing, to balance the risks with the continuation of key functions, using a risk-based approach.

The Committee praised South Africa for their rapid identification, and transparent and rapid sharing of information on the Omicron VOC. The Committee was concerned about the reaction of States Parties in implementing blanket travel bans, which are not effective in suppressing international spread (as clearly demonstrated by the Omicron experience), and may discourage transparent and rapid reporting of emerging VOC.

It noted with concern reports of violence against health workers, public health officials, and expert advisors engaged in the COVID-19 response. The Committee condemns these acts that undermine national and global response efforts.

The Committee also expressed deep concern that countries not eligible for the COVAX Facility Advance Market Commitment (AMC) are experiencing challenges affording COVID-19 vaccines.

In addition, the WHO Committee noted the challenges posed by the high prices of certain therapeutics, the lack of equity in access, and limited data availability on cost-effectiveness of these treatments. It advised that WHO should continue its work with the pharmaceutical sector to address barriers to access and affordability, by expanding tiered pricing, voluntary license agreements and other approaches to increase access to vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostic tests for all countries, possibly looking at the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework for guidance.