By Kasim Sumaina
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) on Saturday conducted simulation exercise at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja to test all protocols designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at the Airports ahead of flight resumption.
The simulation exercise which began Saturday morning saw passengers go through all the protocols before boarding the Aero Contractor flight on a B737 marked NG110 with 51 passengers on board.
THISDAY observed, during the simulation exercise, a 1.5m physical distance markings, two hand wash areas and bags disinfecting area. Also hand sanitizers were placed in strategic locations even as Port Health workers were seen taking temperature of intending passengers.
Passengers were mandated to follow all protocols at all times.
The Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, while speaking during the exercise, explained that the flight simulation was to achieve five things, which included maintaining physical distance, wearing protective materials such as face mask and face shield, maintaining hygiene, cleaning the area and surfaces, and seating in an environment that is clean and hygienic while maintaining physical distance.
“So we can board the aircraft decontaminated so we don’t contaminate others. All of the things that has happened here is to ensure we don’t spread COVID-19,” he said.
According to him, the authorities are ensuring efficient facilitation of passengers so time is not wasted in adopting the new normal.
“We will announce all the protocols again before opening. But you need to be at the airport three hours ahead of your flight,” he stated.
“The experience is quite nice but it takes a bit of time which is why you will need to be at the airport three hours before your local flight. For international flight, we may do five hours,” he added.
Explaining further, Sen. Sirika said: “We have demonstrated here in a mock manner a sick person. You saw how the area was condoned off, the sick taken away to safe area and the scene disinfected. You saw the health workers in their PPEs come around to evacuate the sick person. All this is to adhere to the new normal.
“You also saw that if you were served tea or beverages, you pick it yourself in a disposable cup. Everything for me in this demo exercise worked very well. We came and began maintaining physical distance right from the outside.
“All the markings are there, and we respected that. During the check in procedure, we were shielded from the check-in officials, we got our boarding passes and during boarding, we detached our boarding passes and dropped the other end without physical contact. So contacts with people have been reduced so we can remain safe,” he said
Speaking on the protocol inside the flight, Sirika noted, “There will also be social distancing in the aircraft. But new ideas are coming on board on how to remain seated to make the carbin economical okay and to ensure we don’t infect each other.
“Those new norms are coming and we will implement them in such a way that flights are profitable. WHO and ICAO have developed protocols of the sitting.”
Nigerian airports have been shut down for about three months to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the aviation sector is set to reopen again.