COVID-19: Suspend Christmas, New Year Travels, PTF Advises Nigerians


*  Says travellers fail to show up for mandatory post-arrival test

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 yesterday advised Nigerians to suspend their Christmas and New Year travels to limit the risk of contracting the virus.

The chairman of the task force and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, at a press briefing by the task force in Abuja, said such trips should be put on hold to reduce transmission risks.

Mustapha has also lamented that many passengers who arrived in the country failed to show up for the mandatory post-arrival seven-day PCR test even after the government has paid between N220 million and N270 million to private laboratories.

He said large social gatherings should also be avoided because there is a bigger risk of COVID-19 transmission.

“Ahead of the upsurge in travels for the Christmas and New Year festivities, we urge strongly that for this year, such trips should be put on hold firmly because of the risks involved.

“The transmission rate has simply become astronomical,” he said.

He noted that new clusters of cases can also emerge in places that have so far been unaffected as people gather for festivities.

“There will always be many more festive seasons to celebrate,” he said.

Mustapha expressed fear over the developments at home and in some countries around the world.

He said developments in the United States of America and in Europe remain major sources of concern to the PTF.

“This is particularly so because our risk perception is low in-country. Our compliance with non-pharmaceutical measures is extremely low to the extent that Nigerians now think COVID-19 is no more.

“The response of citizens to testing and detection is very low; the risk of importation will be higher with the opening of our airspace; and the numbers in Nigeria, though appearing low over the last two weeks, has been rising gradually,” he said.

Mustapha said that 39,070 travelers have arrived in-country but have not paid for the lab test.

He said the PTF is concluding steps with relevant institutions and legal authorities to impose appropriate sanctions on the defaulters including those found to have presented fake documents.

He said the record at November 9, 2020 indicated that the total number of passengers expected to pay for the post-arrival PCR test was 86,052, or 94 per cent of the 91,522 total number of passenger bookings.

He stated that 46,982, or 54.6 per cent paid, while 39,070, or 45.45 per cent declined to pay.

The statistics also showed that the total number of passengers that were exempted from the test was 5,470 (6 per cent), while children were 1,248 and diplomats: 3,392 (3.7 per cent).

He urged Nigerians to adhere to all measures put in place to limit spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, the National coordinator of the PTF, Dr. Sani Aliyu, had earlier announced that there will be no relaxing of the COVID-19 protocols ahead of the Christmas season.

Aliyu said that Nigeria is currently worried about the rising cases of COVID-19 pandemic across the globe, hence the need to enforce the COVID-19 rules during the holiday season.-