• As 14 Airlines get nod

BY EDMOND ODOK, ABUJA – The Federal Government has banned 10 airlines from flying into Nigeria when international flights resume in the country on Saturday, September 5, 2020.

However, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika announced that 14 airlines were luckier as they got a clean bill of health to fly in and out of Nigeria.

The banned airlines include Air France, KLM, Etihad, Rwandair, Lufthansa, TAAG, Air Namibia and Angola Airlines.

Also on the list of affected airlines are Cape Verde, Royal Air Maroc, South African Airlines, Royal Air Maroc and South African Airlines.

Sirika, who dropped the hints in Abuja on Thursday, said that South African and Cape Verde airlines are barred because international flights have not yet resumed in their domains, while the eight others are affected by regulations and visa related issues in their respective countries.

Speaking at the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 media briefing, Sirika said among those given the clearance are Air Peace, British Airways, Emirate, Delta airlines, Middle-East, Qatar Airways and Turkish airlines.

Others listed on the approved list include Ethiopian Airlines, Air Cote-d’Ivoire, Kenya Airways, Egypt Air, Virgin Atlantic, Asky, and Africa World Airways (AWA).

The Minister explained that though the airlines are expected to operate within coronavirus (COVID-19) protocols and fresh guidelines, passengers from some countries would be quarantined as part of the precautionary measures.

He further said passengers who fail to present valid COVID-19 tests or refuse to go for a repeat tests might be placed on a travel watch-list for six months.

Sirika also gave insights on the requirements that determined the suitability or otherwise of an airline flying in and out of Nigeria.

According to him, “We used the foreign carrier operator permit which is the requirement by our laws, guidelines by COVID-19 Presidential Task Force and other rules, including restrictions that came from other countries which will affect our own operations here at home.”

“Airfrance and Lufthansa were not approved. The reason is that Swiss visas owners are not allowed entry and the same reason for KLM.

“In making decisions as to who comes, in the wisdom of the PTF and the Ministry of Aviation, we understood that the government has done very well with a low rate of fatality. If you look at other countries, for example, they recorded a lot of fatalities.

“We are over 200 million people and we are still talking about 1,000 deaths. I think we have done very well in fighting this disease(COVID-19). I think we don’t have any reason whatsoever to disallow Nigerians from traveling.”

He said in approving and denying the airlines entry permits, the Nigerian aviation authorities reviewed “issues from other countries and what they have done to us.

“In the case of Britain, they said when we come, they will quarantine us and so, when they come to us too, we will quarantine them.

“For Ethiopian airlines, most of the passengers are not from Addis-Ababa, so we said when they come in too, we will subject them to the protocols of COVID-19. So, they are bringing in only people who are negative.”

He warned that passengers who fail to present a valid COVID-19 test or who refuse to go for a repeat test may be placed on a travel watch list for the next six months.

Furthermore, the Minister said; “All intending passengers must have tested negative for COVID-19 in the country of departure before boarding.

“The test must be within four days and we prefer 72 hours pre-boarding. Test done more than four days before boarding are not valid and passengers will not be allowed to board.

“All intending passengers are required to register via a national payment portal online; Nigeria international travel portal and the website is http://nitp.ncdc.gov.ng and they are expected to pay for a second test to be done upon arrival in Nigeria.

Similarly, Sirika cautioned that; “Airlines that board passengers without a negative COVID-19 test or test result more than four days will be sanctioned.

He listed the proposed sanctions as follows: “Non-Nigerians may be refused a return to a point of embarkation at the cost of the airline;

“The airline will bear the cost of taking such passengers back to where they come from once they are boarded without a negative PCR test result or more than four days prior to boarding;

“Airlines will be fined $3,500 per passenger for failure to comply with the pre-boarding requirements;

“On arriving Nigeria, passengers will be allowed to go through the port health screening and proceed on seven days self-isolation and observe strict physical and social distancing;

“Passengers who fail to submit themselves seven days after arrival will be sent text reminders and their details sent to state public health department teams and NCDC for active follow-up; and

“Passengers who arrive with symptoms will not be allowed to self-quarantine, they will be placed on institutional quarantine.”

In addition, the Minister said: “Nigerians will be allowed entry but subjected to a mandatory quarantine of eight to 14days, depending on the result of the COVID-19 test is done upon arrival.

“So, passengers will be forced into quarantine at a facility approved by the government at the cost of the passenger.”

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