To Contain COVID-19 Spread, FG to Issue Travellers Permits

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•Fake test results on sale in Lagos, says govt

By Dike Onwuamaeze

The federal government yesterday unfolded a new policy to contain the importation of COVID-19 into the country, especially by international travellers.

The policy, whose implementation began yesterday, compels travellers to register with the Nigeria International Travel Portal – nitp.ncdc.gov.ng. to obtain their travel permits before departure from their destinations.

The new policy complements the old system through which travellers would have to generate temporary QR Code, which will only enable them to board at the airport, while they pay for COVID-19 test on arrival.

Under the previous policy, the federal government had warned that any failure to complete the post-arrival test will lead to a six-month suspension of passports for Nigerian citizens and revocation of visas for visitors.

This came just as the Lagos State Government alleged that fake COVID-19 test results were being sold in the state and paraded by travellers who needed clearance on their COVID-19 status.

A notice yesterday by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), said: “When returning to Nigeria, all travellers must present two documents to the airlines in order to board. The first document is a negative COVID-19 PCR result and the second document is a permit to travel.

“To get a permit to travel on the travel portal, the customer must have done the following:
•Completed the health questionnaire electronically
•Uploaded a COVID-19 PCR result
•Paid for a repeat test that would be done seven days after arrival in Nigeria.
“Passengers who do not present a permit to travel would not be accepted for flights to Nigeria from the 28th of December 2020.”

Also yesterday, the Lagos State Government said some international travellers are procuring fake COVID-19 test results.

The Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, at a news conference, described the racketeering of fake COVID-19 test results as a dangerous trend, adding that the state government will clamp down on those found culpable.

The commissioner added that some residents who tested positive for COVID-19 supplied fake contact addresses and phone numbers at isolation centres.

Abayomi added that this makes contact tracing difficult for health workers.
“We suspect people are gaining access to fake certificates and we will clampdown on them as this is a very dangerous trend.

“Positivity for inbound travellers is on the rise as Nigerians in the Diaspora return to spend Christmas in Lagos. It has come to our attention that a number of people are patronising individuals that sell fake COVID-19 results.

“We are currently putting in processes to identify both buyers and sellers and we will not hesitate to prosecute them,” he stated.

Investigation at Abuja and Lagos international airports had shown how government officials forge COVID-19 test results in exchange for cash.

According to regulations, arrivals in Nigeria are mandated to carry out COVID-19 tests to show they are not positive before embarking on their journey.

Against this background, the state government has threatened to sanction travellers evading COVID-19 tests, saying it will not allow some people to undermine the gains it has achieved in curbing the spread of the virus.

Abayomi explained that 48 per cent of COVID-19 patients in the state do not know they are carriers of the virus.

He labelled 16 per cent of the COVID-19 cases currently in the state as severe cases while one per cent are in critical condition.

He said: “Forty eight per cent of people infected with COVID-19 have very mild symptoms or even asymptomatic. Some of them don’t even know they’re carrying the virus.”

He expressed concern about what he calls a rise in the community transmission of the COVID-19.

According to him, although the state has increased its testing ability to between 2,000 to 3,000 daily, a second wave of the pandemic seems imminent due to general laxity and lack of compliance with the non-pharmaceutical protocol.

Abayomi said the trend in positivity shows the virus transmission is increasing more during the festive season because people are gathering.

He also released statistics of the disease profile in the state showing that 48 per cent of the cases are mild with 35 per cent in moderate condition and 16 per cent severe while only one per cent in critical condition.

A further breakdown of admissions in the state also shows that 3,299 patients have so far been admitted, 2,826 discharged, 236 deaths recorded, 63 evacuations made with 75 people are currently in isolation.

He added that 10 oxygen camps are being built across the state out of which six are ready for use.

The oxygen camps are permanent structures and can be used for other diseases besides COVID-19.

Abayomi explained that the outbreak of the new variant of the virus has the capability to be more contagious while the government hopes to balance the public health response and economy so that people can live normally.

He also said the state government would inaugurate the 10 oxygen and sampling centres to improve the management of severe-to-critical COVID-19 cases.

He stated that the state would deploy oxygen therapy centres in high burden local government areas to manage severe-to-critical COVID-19 patients.

He said medical oxygen is the primary treatment for the majority of patients suffering from severe COVID-19 symptoms.

”Many of these patients present late to the isolation centres, thus leading to fatalities.

“This life-saving gas helps patients breathe when they cannot do so on their own, and timely access to oxygen is critical to ensure the patient’s survival.

“If anyone is breathless, go to any of these centres and the doctors and nurses there will assist to stabilise you with oxygen before moving you with the ambulance to the isolation centre,” he said.

Abayomi expressed the state government’s commitment to ensuring improved healthcare system toward enhancing quality healthcare and saving the lives of its citizens.

He, however, warned that the rate of COVID-19 infection positivity was increasing in the state due to the festivities and disregard for safety measures.

”On December 26, the state confirmed 253 new COVID-19 infections, increasing the total confirmed cases of infections in the state to 28,774,” Abayomi said.

He added that 75 confirmed cases were currently being managed at the isolation centres while 3,716 active cases under home-based care were under the state’s EKO TELEMED.