Mr Kwame Asuah Takyi, the Comptroller-General of Immigration (CGI), has called for the inclusion of COVID-19 testing in the International Certificate of Vaccination otherwise known as Yellow Card to strengthen health security.

He said the inclusion would help prevent, protect and contain the spread of the coronavirus disease across borders and avoid the interference with international traffic and trade.

A statement issued by Superintendent Michael Amoako-Atta, the Head of Public Affairs, said the call was made during a web-based seminar on the impact of COVID-19 on the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) free movement protocol and the regional integration agenda.

It was organised organized by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) under the auspices of European Union, ECOWAS Commission and International Labour Organization.

The statement said there is the need for health clearance for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases to be strictly enforced as part of requirements for entry into member states when implemented.

It expressed concern over the nonexistence of health facilities at the various entry points of member States of ECOWAS to cater for the health needs of border officials who were unwell and exposed to infectious diseases and other ever-changing health risks.

“We need effective collaboration between border security agencies and health institutions to curtail the possible spread of infectious diseases across borders”, Mr Takyi said.

The CGI said member states should consider building capacity of port health officials through a continuous training programme to strengthen health security in West Africa as part of the new paradigm shift, post COVID-19.

The statement said as part of policy intervention, member States must leverage on technology to install closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras along the borders for effective monitoring of movements of persons along the frontiers.

It said some of the lessons learnt from the closure of the borders were the increasing use of unapproved routes by migrants to enter the entry, which has led to the identification of several unapproved routes of entry and exist.

Others, the statement said, were the connivance of transport operators and border residents who aided travelers to cross borders illegally, adding: tip-offs from border residents and the sharing of intelligence among border security agencies are therefore crucial to combating irregular migration and the fight against infectious diseases such as covid-19.

Other panelists for the webinar were H.E. Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the Minister for the Interior of Federal Government of Nigeria; Mr Tei Konzi, Commissioner of Trade, Customs and Free Movement for ECOWAS Commission; Ms Melita Gruevska-Graham, Head of Anti-Trafficking Programme for ICMPD; and Ms Lotte Kejser Chief Technical Adviser for International Labour Organization (ILO).

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