By Adedayo Akinwale
The federal government has announced that the evacuation of the first batch of Nigerians from the United States will take place on Saturday, May 9, as against Sunday, May 10, 2020 that was earlier announced.
It added that the Ethiopian Airline aircraft would depart Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey on May 9, 2020 at the estimated time of 19:15 hours and arrive at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja on May 10, 2020, at the estimated time of 11:15 hours.
The Consulate General of Nigeria in New York in a statement dated May 5, 2020, and made available to journalists on Thursday, added that only 270 passengers would be accommodated in the evacuation batch.
It stated categorically that the mission would attend to applicants on a first come, first served basis and would prioritise the list of evacuees according to their immigration status.
This, it said, included consideration for those stranded with proof of short stay visas, the elderly, families with children and returning students.
According to the statement, “The Consulate General of Nigeria in New York, on behalf of the Nigerian Missions in United States of America (USA), wishes to refer to our earlier public notice dated on 3rd May 2020 and to announce a change in the flight plans. Accordingly, the new flight will be Ethiopian Airlines – No. ET 8509 on Saturday, May 9, 2020. The flight itinerary for the evacuation is as follows:
“This new arrangement replaces Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 509, which was earlier scheduled on 10th May 2020. However, those already booked on ET 509 will now be transferred by the airline to the new flight ET 8509 on Saturday 9th May, 2020. The Ethiopian Airlines regrets any inconveniences this change might cause travellers.
“Consequently, all intending evacuees are expected to book and pay for their one-way economy class ticket with Ethiopian Airlines flight no. ET 8509, through www.ethiopianairlines.com. All those who have successfully bought a ticket should immediately forward a copy of it, along with their name, phone number and the address of their next of kin in Nigeria to email@example.com for documentation. Any traveller who has issues in booking this flight may email Mr. Nigusu Worku (the Ethiopian Airline Regional Director of Sales and Services in the USA) at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.”
The Consul advised evacuees to be at the airport four hours in advance, as temperature checks would be carried out in accordance with Pre-Departure Infection Prevention Control (lPC) measures.
It noted that any prospective evacuee with a temperature above 38 degrees centigrade or visually observed to have any symptoms suggestive of Covid-19, would not be allowed to check in, while also adding that Ethiopian Airlines’ rules would apply for the flight, stressing that this included a baggage restriction that only allows for two pieces of 23 kilogrammes each as checked baggage and seven kilogrammes for a carry-on piece.
It stressed that while on-board, all prospective evacuees would be required to be in possession of a hand sanitizer, which should be applied before boarding and intermittently throughout the flight duration and they are all expected to wear masks for the entire duration of the journey.
The Consul emphasised that on arrival at the airport in Abuja, all passengers would be required to fill in a self-reporting/health assessment form; which would be submitted along with their passports to the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS).
Moreover, it noted that all returnees would be expected to adhere strictly to all instructions of Port Health Services (PHS) officials and observe other entry screening protocols.
It stressed that on arrival, all returnees would be transported by the federal government from the airport to the designated quarantine centres for the compulsory 14 days period.
It added: “During this period, all returnees will be tested for Covid-19 and will also be re-tested at the end of the quarantine period. Only those that test negative will be allowed to retrieve their passports from the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), while positive cases will be transferred to designated isolation centres for treatment. Please, note that returnees will be responsible for planning their own travel arrangements from Abuja to their respective destinations within Nigeria after the compulsory quarantine period.”