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Nigeria ban is ‘travel apartheid’ says country’s high commissioner

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Nigeria’s high commissioner has called the UK’s decision to move the country to its red list “travel apartheid”.

Speaking to the BBC earlier today, Sarafa Tunji Isola objected to the heavy red list restrictions placed on travellers from certain countries where the omicron variant has been found.

“What is expected is a global approach, not selective,” Mr Isola told the BBC’s Today programme.

“The travel ban is apartheid in the sense that we are not dealing with an endemic. We are dealing with a pandemic. Whenever we have a challenge there must be collaboration.”

Defending the UK’s decision, Conservative MP Kit Malthouse said the wording was “very unfortunate language”.

“We understand the difficulties that [are] created by these travel restrictions, but we’re trying to buy a little bit of time so that our scientists can work on the virus and assess how difficult it’s going to be,” he told the BBC.

The UK government announced the addition of Nigeria to the red list shortly before 7pm on Saturday, making it the 11th country to be added to the list in two weeks.

“To protect public health, Nigeria will move to the red list from 4am Mon 6 Dec,” tweeted transport secretary Grant Shapps just before 7pm on Saturday.

“If you’ve visited Nigeria in the last 10 days and arrive after 4am on Mon, you MUST book a quarantine hotel at an approved facility.”

The red list move came after several cases of the omicron variant of Covid-19 in the UK were linked to people who had recently returned from Nigeria.

“Analysis by the UKHSA suggests there is strong indication of omicron presence in Nigeria, and several cases identified in the UK are linked to travel from Nigeria,” read a joint statement from the Departments for Transport and Health, along with the Foreign Office, on Saturday.

“The country also has very strong travel links with South Africa, for example Nigeria is the second most popular flight destination from Johannesburg.”

On Thursday, Nigeria reported its first three cases of Covid-19 linked with the omicron variant. On Saturday the UK had reported some 160.

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