Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, has said the challenge and delay faced by the federal government to secure hotel accommodation for Nigerians to be evacuated from COVID-19 high burden nations.
Speaking on Friday at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 briefing in Abuja, he described the challenge as a major hiccup to the effort to evacuate the Nigerians abroad, who had indicated interest to return home.
Onyeama lamented that hotel owners in Lagos and Abuja had been rejecting bookings from potential returnees from the UK, out of fear that their hotel reputation would take a hit if they turn positive during the 14- day period of isolation.
“We have Nigerians who want to come back from all over the world .The number in the UK alone is about 2,000. We just don’t have the isolation centres and hospital beds, hotels to accommodate them all. We have been looking for hotels in Abuja and Lagos. I spoke this afternoon (Friday) with the Governor of Lagos State and his real challenge even as the governor of a state is to find hotels that are willing to take these visitors for 14 days. A lot of hotels clearly feel that it would damage their branding and have some effect on their business if some of them test positive for coronavirus. And that is a big problem for us right now,” Onyeama said.
He stressed further that another alternative was for the people to come back and be isolated in their homes, but the PTF members were worried that large number would be difficult to quarantine and monitor at their homes for two weeks.
“This is the real dilemma that we are facing. And you can imagine when they start coming back and the numbers of positives start spiking, government will now be blamed by the public for bringing so many people back. These are all the issues we are grapping but hopefully we will find a solution to that,” he reasoned.
He also refuted the 72 figures reported as the number of Nigerians that tested positive to the virus in China. The minister gave the official figure tabulated by the Nigerian consulate in Guangzhou to be nine, saying that a number of Nigerians in China were asymptomatic.