The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the COVID-19 pandemic has vowed to punish international airlines with a fine of $3,500 fine per passenger if found to have breached international flight protocols.
PTF National Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, who disclosed this at Monday’s briefing of the task force in Abuja, also revealed that incoming passengers would henceforth pay for their COVID-19 test.
He was speaking on the new protocols for international flights coming into Nigeria as the nation prepares to resume international flights, noting that the new protocols would be strictly applicable to passengers coming into the country from the foreign countries,
He said the PTF has come to the conclusion that it would now be safe to shorten the isolation period for incoming passengers from 14 days now to eight days.
Dr Aliyu stated: “We are narrowing the period of validity of PCR test from the current 14 days to 7 days from 29th of august. Preferably, the PCR test should be done as close as possible to the point of departure for Nigeria, preferably from 48 to 72 hours, but we will still accept the result that is valid for 7 days.
“Prior to boarding, we are currently developing a payment portal. As you are aware, at the moment, the PCR test that we have been doing for evacuated passengers has been sponsored by Aliko Dangote Foundation. We are very grateful for their generosity, we have had more than 13,000 stranded Nigerians brought into the country as a result of this process.
“From the 29th of August, travellers will be required to pay for their COVID-19 test in-country. We are developing a national payment portal, which will link to the current Lagos payment portal that is already active
“We will continue with the policy of ensuring that airlines only board passengers without symptoms of COVID-19 and with negative PCR result. Airlines will be fined $3,500 per passenger if they fail to comply with pre-boarding COVID-19 requirements.
“On arrival in-country from the 29th of August, passports will no longer be retained by the Nigerian Immigration Service, rather, passengers will be allowed to proceed and exit the airport once they can show evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR result, evidence of payment for a PCR result in-country and where possible and where we have been able to sort this health questionnaire form that has been submitted either manually or electronically.
“Passengers will be asked to proceed on self-isolation at home for a period of seven days. On day seven, they will proceed to sample collection centre or laboratory for a repeat COVID-19 PCR test, by day eight, if the PCR test is negative, they will be allowed to exit isolation.
“Based on a rigorous scientific review, the PTF has decided that it will be safe to shorten the current quarantine period or self-isolation for passengers coming into the country from 14 days to eight days, provided they have a negative PCR test result from day seven.
“Passengers will be monitored by public health officers throughout the period of self-isolation, those who develop symptoms will be treated in the same way that we currently manage our COVID-19 positive patients.”
The PTF Coordinator further stated that travellers into the country who are found to have evaded the repeat PCR test will have their passports suspended and placed on international watch-list.
He said that the PTF is working with the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) to ensure this.
According to him, “In terms of ensuring compliance with the COVID-19 protocols, we are currently working with Nigeria Immigration Service to design a system that will allow us to determine those who have not submitted themselves for a repeat of PRC test from day seven upwards.
“These passengers may be sanctioned with inclusion on travel watch-list, their electronic passport suspended for a period of time if they decline to have a repeat PRC test or disappear from the isolation process.
“We will continue to pay very close attention to laboratories accreditation throughout the country as well as outside the country.
“These protocols will be reviewed in four weeks to ensure that results we are getting from passengers pre-boarding will continue to be reliable and if there is a need to review this policy it will be done.”
In his remark at the briefing, the Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, noted that Nigeria’s Case Fatality Rate (CFR) has continued to decline steadily in the last four months, reiterating, however, that sample collection across the country had remained low, challenging state governments to ramp up testing.
Mustapha added: “The PTF has however continued to study the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) and we note that it has been on a steady decline over the last few months: April 30: 3 per cent; May 31: 2.8 per cent; June 30: 2.3 per cent; July 31: 2.0 per cent; and August 22: 1.92 per cent.
“We are however convinced that our sample collection is still low. We, therefore, encourage States to ramp up their testing and to declare correct results because early detection will ultimately translate to treatment and ultimately levelling of the curve.
“Last week Thursday, we informed you that Nigeria had crossed the 50,000 marks of confirmed cases. Yesterday Sunday, 23rd August, we reached the unenviable record of 1,000 fatalities.
“We wish to restate that these records are not just numbers as they vividly remind us of the dangers that we still face. May the souls of all those that have lost the battle against COVID-19 Rest In Peace.”
The PTF boss expressed solidarity with the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi, who disclosed on Monday morning of his positive test for COVID-19.
He stated: “This morning we received the unfortunate news of the positive status of Prof. Akin Abayomi, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health. This has saddened the PTF as the Commissioner has been foremost in the fight against COVID-19. We wish him and all other frontline workers that have risked their lives but contracted the virus in the process, safe and speedy recovery.”