Airlines Demand COVID-19 Test Certificates from International Travellers

  • Nigeria, 10 other countries affected

Chinedu Eze

Some airlines have made the presentation of COVID-19 test certificates, certifying travellers negative for the virus, as a precondition for boarding when operations on international routes resume soon.

THISDAY checks showed that the airlines demanded that the test certificates must be obtained 72 hours before the flight or else an errant traveller will not be allowed to board the flight.

It was gathered that one of the mega carriers from the Middle East, Qatar Airways, has also included Nigeria among the countries whose travellers must present such certificate.

According to the notification from the airline’s website, effective from August 13, 2020, Qatar Airways will be requiring passengers travelling from specific airports in the countries enlisted to present a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR medical test result when checking in.

The countries include Bangladesh, Brazil, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Nigeria and Russia.

Qatar Airways also stated, “Tests must be issued within 72 hours before departure from laboratories that are approved by Qatar Airways, and paid for by the passenger. Children below the age of 12 years are exempt from the test, if accompanied by family members that have presented a negative test result.”

Dubai-based Emirates Airlines also told THISDAY that passengers are expected to present test certificates “to show that you have proven negative before you board our flights and the test must be done in well known laboratory or hospital within 72 hours.”

The airlines said they want to ensure that their customers are protected from COVID-19 infection while onboard their flights.

Other airlines that have also listed the presentation of negative-status certificates on COVID-19 by passengers included British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France/KLM.

Reacting to this development, the Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Aviation, Mr. James Odaudu, told THISDAY that in line with the principle of reciprocity, Nigeria may follow a similar policy.

He, however, added that the federal government was yet to take such decision since the ban on international flights was still in place.

“Since the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Aviation are still working out the guidelines for international flights, it is difficult to say right now. But we can’t rule it out. It’s all about safety precautions,” Odaudu said.

The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had last month rejected the October 15 date fixed for the resumption of international flights by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), saying flights may resume before October.
Sirika was reacting to a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) issued on July 21 by NCAA to international airlines, in which the agency fixed October 15 for the resumption of international flights.

But in his reaction to the NOTAM, the minister, in his verifiable twitter handle, @hadisirika, said the federal government was yet to fix the date for resumption.

“International flight resumption date is not October. NAMA (Nigerian Airspace Management Agency) just issued a routine 90-day notice to airmen (NOTAM). In liaison with Health, Foreign Affairs and PTF COVID-19, we will announce the agreed date, regardless of the ban by Europe, UAE etc. May be earlier than October.”
However, travel expert and the organiser of Akwaaba African Travel Market, Mr. Ikechi Uko, told THISDAY that Nigeria has not opened its airports.

According to him, when it does many of the airlines would change their policy on the country because many of the airlines record high load factor from Nigeria.

“We have not opened our airports. The day we open the airports the rules will change. When they see the load factor recorded by the airlines without that restriction, they will be forced to change the rule.

“By closing its airports for international flights, Nigeria has technically banned every country from flying to Nigeria. So they are not allowing us to fly to their destinations and we are not allowing them to come to ours,” Ikechi said.

One of the major carriers that operate into three destinations in Nigeria, Turkish Airlines did not put a similar restriction but it notified its travellers that anyone with high temperature up to 38 degrees centigrade would not be allowed to travel with the airline.

“In our stations where temperature measurement is allowed, measurement is made with non-contact temperature meters during boarding. If our passengers show symptoms such as fever, runny nose, cough and respiratory distress above 38°C, they will not be admitted to our flights and will be directed to the relevant health institution.

“Please note that in accordance with the guide published by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, certain flight restrictions apply for arrivals to Turkey. Passengers are required to obey the conditions below for a healthy and safe flight. All passengers are required to wear masks at the airport and during the flights.

“All passengers must complete the passenger information form when arriving in Turkey. All passengers will undergo a medical examination and those showing symptoms will have tests performed. Passengers with a positive test result will take medical treatment,” the airline stated in a statement posted on its website.

However, many countries have made it compulsory that travellers must have COVID-19 negative test result certificate before allowing citizens of other countries to travel to theirs. These include the UAE, which has the policy to hold a COVID-19 negative certificate from all inbound and transit passengers.

Also visitors to Greece arriving by air from Bulgaria and Romania will need to provide a negative test result for coronavirus in order to gain entry.

China-bound flights will now have to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test result before being allowed to board the plane. Foreign travellers to China will be required to apply for a health certificate from the Chinese embassy in their country of origin and Chinese passengers must present a QR code proving their eligibility to board the flight, according to CNN report.

Also, all passengers coming to Seychelles from August 1, 2020, when the airport opened for scheduled passenger flights must have proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test not more than 72 hours old before boarding their flight to the island nation.

All passengers, including those in transit through Rwanda, will be required to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test from a certified laboratory, taken within 72 hours of arriving in Rwanda.