Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has threatened to slam a fine of $3,500 per passenger on international airlines that board COVID-19 travellers.
The threat was contained in the new protocols for international flights into the country, issued yesterday by the National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, at the task force’s briefing in Abuja.
Aliyu said passengers observing self-quarantine, who fail to show up for a repeat of the PCR (Polymerise Chain Reaction) test would be placed on the international watchlist and their electronic passport suspended.
He said the new point of entry protocols would only affect foreigners coming to the country, adding that the PTF believed that it would now be safe to shorten the isolation period for incoming passengers from 14 days to eight days from August 29.
“We will continue with the policy of ensuring that airlines only board passengers without symptoms of COVID-19 and with negative PCR result. Airlines will be fined $3,500 per passenger if they fail to comply with pre-boarding COVID-19 requirements.
“On arrival in-country from the 29th of August, passports will no longer be retained by the Nigerian Immigration Service, rather, passengers will be allowed to proceed and exit the airport once they can show evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR result, evidence of payment for a PCR result in-country and where possible and where we have been able to sort this health questionnaire form that has been submitted either manually or electronically.
“Passengers will be asked to proceed on self-isolation at home for a period of seven days. On day seven, they will proceed to sample collection centre or laboratory for a repeat of COVID-19 PCR test; by day eight, if the PCR test is negative, they will be allowed to exit isolation,” Aliyu said.
He added that the task force has resolved that it will be safe to shorten the current quarantine period or self-isolation for passengers coming into the country from 14 days to eight days, provided they have a negative PCR test result from day seven.
“Passengers will be monitored by public health officers throughout the period of self-isolation; those who develop symptoms will be treated in the same way that we currently manage our COVID-19 positive patients.”
According to him, all intending travellers to Nigeria must have tested negative for COVID-19 PCR before they will be allowed entry into the country.
He said the PCR test should be done close to the point of departure for Nigeria, preferably from 48 to 72 hours, adding that the PTF is presently developing a national payment portal prior to boarding, which will be linked to the current Lagos payment portal that is already active for passengers.
Meanwhile, the federal government has also attributed the recent spike in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Lagos State to Nigerian nationals who were evacuated from foreign countries.
The Chairman Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha, said at the press briefing that although the federal government has in place Point of Entry Protocols to minimise importation of the virus, the validation process for the pre-boarding PCR test revealed that 64 per cent of new cases in the number of confirmed cases in Lagos, particularly the 404 cases on August 22, came from the evacuees.
Mustapha also added that although 4,984 Nigerians have returned home, the federal government will intensify the validation process for the PCR tests in order to minimise risks.
He said all evacuation flights would cease from today while with effect from August 29, all international travellers on scheduled flights would be required to pay for their PCR test ahead of their flight by indicating their preferred laboratory after filling online to have the test.
While referencing the WHO guidance on the use of masks for children of 11 years and above in the context of COVID-19 as it relates to the community, Mustapha urged children with immune-compromised conditions to wear mask irrespective of their age.
He also wished Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, who tested positive for the virus speedy recovery, adding that the PTF felt saddened at the news, given that Abayomi has been foremost in the fight against the virus.