By Babajide Okeowo
From today, Monday, December 28, 2020, passengers arriving from South Africa and the United Kingdom (UK) will be received and processed separately by the country’s public health authorities, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has directed.
This development, the NCAA explained, has become necessary following the recent spike in cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria and the reports of a highly transmissible new variant of the virus in the UK and South Africa.
NCAA while issuing the directive at the weekend in a letter stated that the federal government, through the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 (PTF), has reviewed the quarantine protocol.
In the letter dated December 26, 2020 and signed by the Director-General of NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu, which was sent to local and international airline operators, the agency stated that flights and passengers originating from the United Kingdom and South Africa, with final destination to Nigeria, must present pre-departure permit TO FLY/QR code generated from Nigeria International Travel Portal.
The permit must show evidence of the payment for the post-arrival day 7 COVID-19 PCR test and documentary evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR result done within 96 hours (four days) of boarding from a verifiable laboratory or health facility.
Nuhu stated that on arrival, passengers would be received and processed separately by public health authorities, adding that all passengers will be required to self-isolate for seven days after arrival, followed by another COVID-19 PCR test.
He added that passengers with a post-arrival negative COVID-19 PCR result will be referred for isolation and further management.
“A dedicated register for arriving passengers from the UK and South Africa will be opened for enhanced surveillance and active enforcement of these protocols. Punitive measures shall be taken against airlines, which fail to comply with this all operators’ letter.
The punitive measures shall include but not be limited to; Airlines shall be fined $3,500 for each defaulting passenger. Airlines may be required to return non-Nigerian defaulting passengers to the point of embarkation, repeated non-compliance by any airline will lead to suspension of the airline’s approval/permit to fly into the country,” the letter said.
Earlier COVID-19 protocol for arriving passengers to Nigeria did not deviate much from the new rules, but indications show that concerned authorities would be more emphatic on implementation.
Recall that a new and more contagious strain of the COVID 19 virus has been discovered in the United Kingdom in recent time sparking a fresh lockdown in some parts of the country.