COVID-19: Int’l Passengers Evading Tests To Face Ban – PTF

Yemisi Izuora

The Presidential Task Force (PTF ) on COVID-19 on Monday at the its briefing in Abuja warned that International passengers who evaded tests in Nigeria would be put on the travel watch list of the government.

The National Coordinator of the PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, said this while announcing that the Federal Government had introduced new COVID-19 protocols for travellers as Nigeria reopened its airspace for international travels on Saturday.

He said passengers coming into Nigeria must have undergone Polymerase Chain Reaction test for COVID-19 before departing the other country, while they must undergo another test after in Nigeria.

While only travellers with negative PCR results would be allowed into Nigeria, Aliyu said any airline who failed to ensure that its passengers present negative results risks being fined $3,500 per passenger.

The PTF also warned travellers against shunning the second test to be conducted from seven days after their arrival, threatening that the “Nigerian Immigration Service could suspend their passports or put them on travel watch list.”

Aliyu said, “We will be continuing with the process of requesting for a negative PCR result from all passengers boarding to travel to Nigeria. This COVID-19 test must be PCR test. We will not accept any other result. We are concerned about the quality of some of the results and the discrepancy we are getting when passengers are subsequently tested in the country.

“For this reason, the protocol that has just been approved will be reviewed after four weeks and we will also be looking at the level of discrepancy between negative and positive results, with a view to developing a list of accredited laboratories for countries that we frequently receive travellers from.”

“We are narrowing the period of validity for the PCR test from the current 14 days to seven days, from 29th of August. Preferably, the PCR test should be done as close as possible to the point of departure for Nigeria, preferably within 48 to 72 hours, but we will still accept results that are valid for seven days.”

Aliyu stated that travellers arriving Nigerian would pay for their PCR tests. According to him, Aliko Dangote Foundation has been footing the bill of tests conducted on the over 13,000 stranded Nigerians evacuated by the Federal Government from different parts of the world.

“But from the 29th August, travellers will be required to pay for the COVID-19 test in the country,” he stated.

On the conditions set for airlines and passengers, Aliyu said, “We will continue with the policy of ensuring that airlines only board passengers without symptoms of COVID-19 and with negative PRC result. Airlines will be fined $3,500 per passenger if they failed to comply with pre-boarding COVID-19 requirement.”

The PTF also disclosed that 64 per cent of the 404 confirmed cases recorded in Lagos on Saturday came from Nigerians evacuated from abroad.

This is despite the Point of Entry Protocols put in place at the nation’s airports to minimise importation of the virus.

The chairman of the task force who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, disclosed this at the briefing.

He said, “Prior to the reopening of the airspace, the PTF had put in place Point of Entry Protocols to minimise importation.

“Unfortunately, the validation process for the pre-boarding PCR test have shown that 64 per cent of recent spike in number of confirmed cases in Lagos (404) on Saturday, August 22, came from the evacuees.

“Over the weekend, 252 additional Nigerians were evacuated from the United Arab Emirates which has brought the total number of Nigerians that have returned home to 4,984.

“We shall intensify the validation process for the PCR tests to minimise risks.”

Mustapha noted that the Case Fatality Rate has been on steady decline since April, but admitted that the country’s sample collection was still low.

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