Nigeria closed her borders since the 23rd of March, 2020. After announcing the shutdown of the aviation industry in Nigeria on March 21st, foreign countries began evacuating their citizens from Nigeria. The USA started evacuating its citizens on March 30th, and by the 9th of April 2020, 997 people were evacuated from Nigeria. Also, the UK, other European and Middle Eastern countries, and South Africa followed suite. As at the 6th of April, 137 Canadians had evacuated from Nigeria.
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Likewise, Nigeria plans to evacuate its citizens from the UK, USA, Canada, China and other countries; particularly her tourists stranded in foreign countries during the COVID-19 outbreak. On April 7, the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked all its missions abroad to compile a list of willing Nigerians who want to come back home. With over 2,000 Nigerians worldwide on the list, the evacuation would start from the countries with the highest number.
Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman and CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, said all returnees must have undergone a COVID test and confirmed negative before being allowed home. The returnees will pay for travel fares and mandatory 14 days isolation care. It is inferred that those who are positive may have to stay back in the country of departure for treatment before returning home.
So it goes to say there have been movements since the pandemic broke. Albeit, these are not leisure related but have been strictly cut down to essential duties and businesses.
Speaking on authorised movements, the possibility of issuing immunity passports or “risk-free” certificates has come up. While it sounds like an implementable suggestion, the World Health Organization was quick to point out that allowing people who have recovered from COVID-19 to have lower travel restrictions is too risky because:
1. There is no evidence to support the impossibility of a reinfection after recovery.
2. Recovered people may become less cautious which might lead to an increase in the virus transmission when they stop taking precautions.
Thus, lowering restriction on movements might not be the best move to gravitate towards even though it is being considered by countries such as Chile, Sweden, and Belgium. And with countries like Cyprus already preparing to open their borders to European tourists by July 2020, it seems the race to resume tourism is on.
Meanwhile, some Nigerians question the need for total lockdown, claiming it is a European approach not workable for Africa. They have called for more indigenous approach to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic that enables economic activities to thrive. No doubt, this will include relaxing the travel restrictions.
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For now, all international commercial flights in and out of Nigeria are on hold till at least May 7th. The Nigerian Immigration Service has also announced the temporary suspension of passports and migrant registration till May 23rd. Thus, tourists who outstay their authorised visa stay because of the travel restrictions would not be penalised.
With these in place, there is no telling when we will be ready to start international leisure travels. This seems the best time to promote inbound tourism to areas where social distancing can actually be practised safely like zoos and conservation centres. For a start, tour activities that can thrive immediately after lockdown would include such sport as walking tours within one’s state.
Featured image source: Upstream Online
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