The Presidential Steering Committee no COVID-19 (PSC) has replied critics of its directive for all those coming in through Nigeria’s land borders that health declaration forms are a norm and not just peculiar to Nigeria. The committee said it is for border control and surveillance.
This was revealed by the committee’s national incident manager, Dr. Mukhtar Muhammad in Abuja today (November 22, 2022).
Science Nigeria reports that travellers into the country asked to upload their health certificates concerning COVID-19 and other infectious diseases like Ebola as a requirement, called on the government to stop the process and alleged that the country is the [only] one with the difficult requirement.
“Let me take you back in history. You know, for border control and border surveillance, there have always been health declaration forms. We have for yellow fever, meningitis, cholera and even smallpox [when it was rampant].
“All of these made the world realise that there is a cross-border transmission of infection and every country has its own set of rules. So, it is not true that Nigeria is [the only one requesting] a health declaration. Many countries are into the same practice.
“When COVID-19 came, we all added COVID-19 to the health declaration form.
“Right now, what we’re doing is reversing the situation to try to go back to the normal health declaration form if COVID-19 no longer poses an international risk.
“It’s just a process. It’s not something that Nigerians have to look at the parameters. The PSC on COVID-19 has monitored the situation in the last six months and has seen that the country has seen a sustained decline in the number of new cases of COVID-19,” he said.
He disclosed that the committee has noted, as well, a consistent decline in hospitalisation and the country has not recorded any mortality in the last 40 days, adding that these were the indices.
“With this, we are braced. You know, you need to look at what needs to change in the current regulation and it’s not only Nigeria; there are many. We review this daily and work with the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) and they provide guidelines about the requirements for other countries,” he said.
Muhammad said, so far, the developed countries that have dropped their regulations did so probably because of their level of high vaccination and booster doses of COVID-19 which they have taken.
“Some of them realise that testing and uploading vaccination certificates are no longer required; still, many countries do [request for them],” he said.
As of November 22, he said, there were about 85 countries that still required people to do pre-departure testing and about 49 countries requesting people arriving in their countries to do a Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
He added that about 30 countries – including Canada, China and most African countries – require people to be quarantined on arrival.
“A lot of our African countries – including Niger and Ghana – have some form of protocol or other. But we understand, we bear the pressure and we know that Nigerians (especially those who travel a lot) say that they have been everywhere around the world and nobody’s doing this. Why are you still doing it?”
He said that uploading the health declaration form was nothing because it could be done “under two minutes”.
Muhammad said: “So if we don’t have that health declaration form in place, the danger is that we will be unable to track not only COVID-19 but Ebola (which is now in Uganda and some other parts of Africa).
“We want to track people who are at risk of transmitting this infection to other people. With the health declaration form, we will be able to know where the person arrives, where he’s going to be located, his phone number and his address. The system will notify either the Federal Minister of Health or the NCDC of the final destination.
“Whether it’s a state or a local government, we have district surveillance officers who will pick up that person almost immediately. Diseases like Ebola can cause havoc in a matter of hours,” he said.
He said that people can come into the country as symptomatic, noting that they do not have any sign of sickness or infection.
“During that period, those people can still transmit the disease. So, if you have this contact tracing mechanism, the form only helps us to do that contact tracking mechanism and to help.
“For example, in a plane, we know your seat number, who’s sitting to your left, who’s sitting to your right, in front of you and behind you. Those people are at risk already.
“With that form, we will be able to track them and monitor them because they are likely to get infected in transit and infect other people. That [form] helps us to pinpoint the people because the disease does not occur immediately,” he explained.
Muhammad said that the health declaration form has several components for people to list places where they have been.