June 12, 2024

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COVID-19 STRAIN: Nigeria prescribes new protocols for passengers from the UK, SA.

4 min read

Management of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, has distilled the new travel protocol emanating from the Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID-19, meant to contain the new strain of the virus discovered in the United Kingdom and South Africa from rearing its ugly head in Nigeria.

In a letter addressed to All Nigerian operators and foreign operators flying into Nigeria, dated 26th December 2020, and signed by the Director-General, DG, Capt. Musa S. Nuhu, it stated that “with the spike in COVID-19 in Nigeria, and the reported highly transmissible new variants of the virus in the United Kingdom, UK, and South Africa, SA, the Federal Republic of Nigeria through the Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID-19, has reviewed the quarantine protocols as follows.”

The letter urged airlines and passengers from UK and SA to ensure they possess “Pre-departure Permit to fly/QR Code generated from Nigeria International Travel Porter, ncdc.gov.ng. Showing evidence of the payment for the post-arrival day 7 COVID-19 PCR test”.

It directed both passengers and airlines to ascertain before takeoff – pre-boarding- that they are in possession of a “documentary evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR result done within 96 hours, 4 days of boarding from a viable laboratory or health facility”.

The letter highlighted the protocol that will apply on arrival in Nigeria such as the collection of passports to be separately processed by the public health authorities.

The DG in the letter said, “all passengers will be required to self-isolate for seven (7) days after arrival, followed by a covid-19 PCR test”.

Capt. Nuhu explained that “Passengers with a Post Arrival, Negative COVID-19 PCR result, can exit isolation at day 8. Those with a positive COVID-19 PCR result will be referred for isolation and further management”.

He wrote that “a dedicated register for arriving passengers from the UK and SA, will be opened for enhanced surveillance and active enforcement of these protocols”

According to the letter to the operators, these protocols “shall be applicable to schedule and none schedule flights conveying passengers originating from UK and SA”.

The earlier quarantine protocol which became effective on 18th September 2020, the letter said, “shall continue to subsists for flights originating from other countries except from the validity of the pre-departure PCR test result which will now be 96 hours, 4 days from date of departure”

The letter, however, declared the new protocol will be in force by tomorrow, Monday, 28th December 2020, at 0001 local time. (2301 UTC)

The statement minced no word in assuring defaulting airlines and passengers of Punitive measures which will include but not limited to a fine of $3,500.00 for each defaulting passenger. While the airline may be required to return none Nigerian defaulting passengers to the point of embarkation.

Repeated none compliance by any airline the letter claimed, will lead to the suspension of the airline’s approval/permit to fly into the country.

It will be recalled that on penultimate Saturday, 19th December 2020, the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced stricter coronavirus measures in London, especially in the South East and East of England amid concerns about the spread of a new strain of the virus which may be up to 70% more transmissible.

Johnson introduced a fourth tier of COVID-19 restrictions in the regions, as well as unveiling tighter plans around households gathering during Christmas.

The devolved governments of Wales and Scotland Wales also announced new measures on Saturday and all of Wales were placed into the highest level of lockdown (tier 4) with all non-essential shops closing.

Almost immediately cross-border travels were banned in Scotland. Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a stricter travel ban from Scotland to the rest of the UK throughout the festive season.

On Sunday, 20th December, the Federal Republic of Germany, in an announcement said the 70% more dangerous strain of the COVID-19 virus detected in the United Kingdom, is not yet in Germany. As a means to curb its spread Germany’s Head of Aviation Department, Johann Friedrich Colsman, issued a travel alert, an extreme measure number LF 10/6194.1/1-10.

The statement said there will be no more flights between Germany and UK. Germany based passenger aircraft in UK were ordered to immediately return home. While cargo flight the statement said, can continue to operate but will come under very stringent oversight from the Aviation Department.

The softening of stance on cargo can be understood since over 90% of air cargo in the skies now are freighting medicaments for either testing of COVID-19, Personal Protective Equipment or COVID-19 vaccines.

Also, flights between Germany and South Africa had been cancelled as of midnight Sunday, 20th December and the statement added the restriction will be in force till 31st December 2020.

In the course of the week starting 20th December, over 40 sovereign nations had announced one or another of travel restrictions by the middle of the week. Countries that announced the ban of flights from the UK include Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium and Israel.

Others who announced various forms of travel restrictions before mid of last week included Canada, El Salvador, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Sweden, Netherlands, Ireland, Belgium, France, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Turkey, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, among others.

The WHO said it was in “close contact” with the UK about the new strain of the virus, with the international health body and Britain sharing information and analysis about the outbreak.

England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said the UK had informed WHO about the development after modelling showed a rapid spread in South East England.

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