By Kazeem Ugbodaga
The Lagos State Government has warned incoming passengers who shun the Federal Government’s guidelines against COVID-19 to stop it or face the consequences.
This is to protect Lagosians against the fatal effects of the reversal of the gains made against the pandemic, which are loss of lives, livelihood and economic hardship.
The Federal Government has said those who will not respect the protocols will have their passports impounded or visas cancelled.
Prior to resumption of International flights and the lifting of International travel restriction by the Federal Government, in line with the ease of COVID-19 lockdown, the Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID19, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) developed and disseminated International travel guidelines as part of the continued effort to limit the spread of the COVID19 infection.
A statement issued by the Lagos Commissioners for Health and Information and Strategy, Prof. Akin Abayomi and Gbenga Omotoso respectively said the international travel guidelines outlined very specific and clear protocols and guidelines for inbound and outbound flights and passengers – in line with infection prevention measures.
“Well spelt out in the travel guidelines is a provisional 7- day self quarantine protocol for all returning travelers to Nigeria which became effective from the 5th of September, 2020.
“The Global pandemic is not abating and, indeed, many European and American countries are experiencing second and third waves with devastating impacts on lives and livelihoods. To protect Lagos and Nigeria from the risk of imported cases, which may push us into a second wave, it is imperative that we follow the National Guidelines published by the Presidential Task Force (PTF). This is particularly important as we will be expecting a large influx of travelers for the festive Christmas season.
“On the 3rd of November 2020, the Chairman of the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, said the PTF was highly concerned about the default rate of inbound travelers not presenting for the mandatory COVID-19 test on day 7 in Nigeria. The SGF stated that the PTF was set to sanction travelers who refused to present themselves for a mandatory COVID-19 (PCR) test. Mustapha said that the need has now arisen to activate the sanctions, which include the suspension of passports of such defaulting individuals for six months minimum or outright visa cancellation for foreigners,” the statement said.
The government said according to the provisional quarantine protocol, all intending inbound passengers must test negative by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) done in the country of departure within 72 hours of boarding and were required to register via – http://nitp.ncdc.gov.ng and pay for a repeat (second) PCR test to be done upon arrival in Nigeria on day seven at an accredited lab of their choice.
“Passengers must also prior to boarding fill in an online Health Declaration/Self-Reporting form located on the Nigeria International Travel Portal which must be submitted online or printed for presentation on arrival in Nigeria.
“On arrival in Nigeria, passengers must show evidence of payment with an appointment for a repeat PCR test in-country following which passengers will be cleared through the Nigeria Immigration Service.
“Passengers must then proceed on a 7-day self-isolation as per protocol and present at the designated accredited sample collection sites on the 7th day of arrival. Passengers who test negative after seven days will end self- isolation on the 8th day.
“Positive cases will be managed based on National Guidelines for COVID-19 treatment through our EKOTELEMED Service,” it said.
The state government lamented that it had been reported severally through notification from Port Health Services, NCDC, the Lagos State Biobank and Accredited Private Laboratories carrying out COVID-19 tests that inbound passengers arriving Nigeria were breaching the COVID-19 protocols.
“We have on good authority that some passengers having registered and paid for COVID-19 test have failed to report to assigned private laboratories after completion of their seven days isolation. Some incoming passengers even failed to register and pay for the test altogether whilst making their journey to the country in total disregard and breach of the safety protocols.
“Likewise, a large number of international passengers provided wrong information and contact details while registering online, making it difficult for them to be reached, traced or contacted by our logistics team.
“This is not only worrisome but portends danger for public health and safety as the populace stands the risk of infection from any asymptomatic positive case who perhaps is not aware of his/her status.
“We are definitely not going to fold our arms and watch the gains made by us against the disease to be reversed by the irresponsibility of some citizens who choose to flagrantly disregard our guidelines. This is why we are set to take action against people who flout these protocols,” the statement said.
The government said it had reported these trends to the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 who in turn had directed the Nigeria Immigration Service to take action against travellers who breached the travel protocols and guidelines.
It said the Federal Government, through the Immigration Service is compiling names and passport number of returned passengers who were yet to present themselves for the PCR test.
“We wish to advise those who fall within these category to rethink their decision and present themselves for the test within one week to avoid deactivation of their passport.
“If you are in Lagos State and wish to rebook your test or get your sample collected, kindly contact the Lagos State Biobank via email on firstname.lastname@example.org; or our logistics arm on email@example.com.
“We are also aware of the misinformation making the rounds , especially on social media, that the PCR test in Nigeria for inbound travelers has been cancelled. We wish to state categorically that this is absolute falsehood being peddled by mischief makers bent on eroding the success recorded in the fight against COVID-19 in Lagos and Nigeria.
“As Nigeria continues the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the resources available to the public health laboratories are for public testing and cannot be re-purposed for travelers. However citizens who fall within the case definition of COVID-19 symptoms can have a test done free of charge at any of the Public Health laboratories scheduled for that purpose.
“In Lagos State, our resolve to stop COVID-19 transmission amongst the populace is unshaken and we will continue to pursue vigorously all our strategies and plans to ensure a COVID-19 free Lagos and Nigeria. It is also important that Lagos residents remain vigilant but calm as the Lagos State Government is doing everything within its powers to protect the lives and livelihoods of its residents,” the government said.