A WhatsApp message resembling an NCDC circular says Nigeria has not placed a travel ban or provided quarantine measures for travellers from countries with coronavirus cases.
As at when the message was received, Nigeria was yet to establish travel restrictions; it has since so imposed said restrictions on 13 high-risk countries. Also, contrary to the claim, there are and have always been quarantine measures for migrants into the country.
On March 8, Dubawa received a WhatsApp message concerning Nigeria’s preparedness for containing the spread of coronavirus in the country. It states that the country has not placed a travel ban; further suggesting the unavailability of quarantine measures for travellers from countries with coronavirus cases.
The broadcast message resembles a press statement from the NCDC – Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, trying to dispel misinformation in the public space. But is it from NCDC?
Save for the highlighted spelling errors, the message content and presentation suggests it originates from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). However, when Dubawa checked NCDC’s website, we found nothing of the sort. Nonetheless, the unorthodox method of this falsehood gets an A for effort.
While it is paramount to note that the centre does debunk claims related to the pandemic, we are confident this broadcast- ‘circulating misinformation’– was not one of them. Honestly, besides boldfaced attribution, what ties it to the NCDC? There are no watermarks or logos, and does the institution send broadcast WhatsApp messages?
Regardless, this could be one of those messages that attributes its claims to authoritative bodies to gain prominence. While the information in its first paragraph is a bit confusing, we have resorted to verifying the two communicated ideas. “Travel Ban and Quarantine measures.”
Has Nigeria issued a travel ban on migrants from countries with coronavirus cases?
Recently, Nigeria imposed a travel ban on 13 high-risk countries for the coronavirus. The authorities announced this on March 18. This restriction would prevent entry from:
- South Korea
- United States of America
- The United Kingdom
However, as at when we received this WhatsApp claim, the story was different. Initially, the federal government had no plan to impose travel bans on travellers coming into the country. Hence, we will look at the chronology of events leading to this present development.
Timeline of events
On January 30, before the pandemic’s arrival into Nigerian borders. Premium Times reported that the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire had said Nigeria would not be stopping passengers from China from entering the country so far they have been screened at the point of entry.
Furthermore, after Nigeria has dealt with two cases, the country still did not restrict movement into the country. NCDC, in its 5th Public Health Advisory on coronavirus, said that the World Health Organization had not recommended any travel or trade ban as measures against the virus outbreak. It also included that Nigeria has intensified surveillance at points of entry (Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt and FCT) particularly for returning travellers with travel history to high-risk countries with widespread community transmission.
“Presently, the World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend any travel or trade restriction based on the current information available“
Also, on March 16, a publication from Premium Times revealed that Nigeria still had no plan to ban legitimate travellers from high-risk countries; this revelation was against the backdrop of over 24 countries noted to have some travel restrictions in place. Nevertheless, the report remarked on Nigeria’s plans to intensify screening on passengers from 8 countries:
- South Korea
Meanwhile, there were questions about why the US and UK did not make this list; both countries recorded a significant amount of coronavirus cases.
Further, Nigerians on social media projected their displeasure on the government’s stance, initiating a hashtag that spoke to enforcing a travel ban. Amidst, the social media conversations, Nigeria confirmed a third case and scheduled a task force meeting on deciding on the travel ban.
Are there quarantine measures for migrants from countries with coronavirus cases?
Contrary to the message’s claim, the NCDC has put in place self-quarantine measures for travellers moving into the country. The centre has repeatedly published to this fact in its Public Health Advisory on coronavirus; the 5th advisory reads:
However, since the imposition of the travel ban, NCDC has also made some changes in its travel advice; this is evident in its 6th Public Health Advisory.