EUROPEAN Union (EU) officials have challenged Nigerian health authorities to do more to combat the spread of Covid-19 by not including the country on a list of 14 nations whose nationals will be allowed to enter the community as from tomorrow.
As part of its drive to ease the restrictions introduced in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the EU will be opening its borders to international travel as from tomorrow July 1. As a first step, the EU has listed 14 countries whose citizens are deemed safe, whose nationals will be allowed in.
These nations include are Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay. However, countries like Nigeria, the US, Brazil and China are excluded, although the EU is ready to add China if the Chinese government offers a reciprocal deal for EU travellers.
For now, UK nationals are still to be treated in the same way as EU citizens until the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December. This means that during this period UK nationals and their family members are exempt from the EU’s temporary travel restriction.
Under this complicated arrangement, the UK is currently negotiating temporary air bridges with several EU member states, so that coronavirus does not totally block summer holidays. However, there are splits within the community as countries like Spain want the boost of tourism but prefer playing safe because they have been hit so hard by Covid-19 but others like Greece and Portugal, which depend on tourism, are less scarred by the virus.
Countries like Germany and Spain, horrified by the devastation of Covid-19, want to play safe, so pushed to have a short list of countries with low infection rates, a good health service and reliable health data. France on the other hand is insisting on reciprocity, pointing out that if a non-EU country was barring flights from the bloc, its citizens should be barred.
Last week reports said member states were assessing two different lists, one covered countries with fewer than 16 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people and the other with up to 20 cases, which would include Canada and Turkey. This final list which has been agreed, is expected to be revised every two weeks, so the US could be added later.
Earlier this month the European Commission stressed that reopening borders with non-EU states in the Western Balkans was a priority as from 1 July. However, EU member Croatia said last week that travellers from Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia and North Macedonia would all face 14-day self-isolation periods if they arrive because of an increase in infections.
Nigeria only has 25,133 cases of coronavirus, of which there have been 573 deaths, which is a very low infection rate, given that the country has a population of 200m people. However, the Nigerian healthcare delivery system is chronically under-funded, leading to a very low test rate.