19.03.2020 Feature Article

COVID 19 – A Threat To Migration

COVID 19 – A Threat To Migration
LISTEN MAR 19, 2020

The rapid spread of the pandemic has resulted in countries all over the world taking a series of actions to save their citizens and others from being infected. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Coronavirus are a large family of viruses that causes illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

The World Health Organisation has stated that COVID-19 is a new strain of virus that was discovered in 2019 and has not been previously identified in humans.

The first incidence of an outbreak of the virus was recorded in December 2019 at Wuhan. Wuhan is a city located in China’s province of Hubei, it is a commercial centre divided by the Yangtze and Han Rivers.

According to the WHO, the virus primarily spreads between people in a similar manner. It is spread through influenza via respiratory droplets from coughing or exhaling. As at the time of writing this article (18th March 2020, 17:40GMT), the John Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center has recorded a total of 211,853 cases, out of these number, 8724 were reported to have died and 83,188 people have so far recovered.

The virus which has shown that it is no respecter of persons has affected important personalities, ranging from government officials to celebrities. The wife of Canada’s Prime Minister Mrs. Sophie Gregoire Trudeau is one of the personalities who tested positive to the virus, others like the press secretary to the Brazilian President and recently, Idriss Elba, a famous actor also took to social media to announce to the world that he has tested positive to the virus,

The prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, a British health minister, Iran’s deputy health minister, France’s culture minister, Australian home affairs minister and the President of the European Parliament have all self-quarantined themselves to help protect others from infection.

Apart from the economic and social impact of the pandemic on countries, migration and international travel is the most affected. Countries have issued travel warnings, travel restrictions, health screening and quarantines to help protect travelers from this deadly virus.

One of the hardest-hit industry is the airline industry, Airline companies like Delta Airways, Lufthansa and British Airways have all had to cut down on flights due to the harm caused by the virus. is also reporting that the aviation industry may not fully recover from the effects of the pandemic,

Hotels are recording low patronage because people are not interested in travelling due to the pandemic, families have been temporarily separated, businesses have been shut down because people may infect others.

In the United States of America, states like Washington D.C, New York, Houston, and New Jersey have all ordered the closure of public places in order to safeguard life, other countries in Europe and Africa have all taken some measures to halt the spread of the pandemic.

In Ghana, seven cases have so far been recorded, this includes a top diplomat of the Norwegian Embassy, the pandemic has led to the closure of the Norwegian, Netherlands Embassy and the Canadian High Commission respectively.

The government is also taking some measures to secure the citizens and others from contracting the virus. This includes the barring of non Ghanaians from disembarking at the Kotoka International Airport.

The Ghana Immigration Service has so far refused entry to 2 Italians on board an Air France, 24 Chinese and 1 Germany. The Service has also reported of a drastic reduction in passengers disembarking at the Airport.

The EU has issued a travel ban on travelers from outside the EU, according to the BBC, the EU has imposed a 30-day ban to halt the spread of the virus. The ban does not affect Europeans going home or cross-border workers. UK citizens are also exempted due to an interim Brexit deal which ties the UK to EU rules.

The spread of the virus is likely to also hinder the free movement of people and goods in the West African sub region. Due to the mode of transmission, all countries in the sub region would want to put in place stringent measures to forestall the spread of the pandemic. This would result in the restriction of members from traveling from one state to the other. It has also been reported that a Nigerian was refused entry at the Aflao border because the Immigration found out that he had traveled to Korea in the past 15 days.

Most African countries are import dependent, they depend on Asia, Europe and America for most of their needs, with the outbreak of the pandemic, most factories in these countries have stopped production and this is having a rippling effect on businesses that import from these countries. Businessmen and other travelers have all been held back by the pandemic.

COVID-19 is a social leveler, it has no respect for status, age and colour. It has really thought us that we need each other to make the world a better place. The various efforts by governments, international organisations and individuals to see to the prevention and possible cure of the pandemic should be a welcome news to us all. We should also ensure that we abide by the best practices that has been published widely to prevent the virus from spreading further.

Mustapha Jimah.

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The writer is a former consular officer at the Netherlands Embassy in Ghana and currently the CEO of Musjima Ventures. His interest is in travel matters and migration issues. For enquiries call or whatsapp me on 0262677946.

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