As Nigeria prepares for the resumption of international flights on September 5, 2020, the Federal Government has released the list of airlines granted approval for operations.
The nation’s airspace had been shut to commercial international flights since March as part of efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.
Speaking at the briefing by members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 in Abuja on Thursday, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, named international airlines denied flying approval as Air France, KLM, Etihad, Rwand Air, Lufthansa, TAAG Angola Airlines, Air Namibia, and Royal Air Maroc.
Cape Verde and South African airlines were denied approval because international flights are yet to resume in their countries.
The airlines given licence to operate include: Middle-East, British Airways, Delta Airlines, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Egypt Air, Air Peace, Virgin Atlantic, Asky, Africa World Airways (AWA), Air Cote-d’Ivoire, Kenya Airways, Emirate and Turkish airlines.
On other criteria used for approving and denying the airlines, Sirika said: “We used the foreign carrier operator permit, which is the requirement by our laws, guidelines by COVID-19 Presidential Task Force and other guidelines including restrictions that came from other countries which will affect our own operations here at home.
“Air France 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 lots of fatalities.
“We are over 200 million people and we are still talking about 1000 deaths. I think we have done very well to fight this disease, so I think we don’t have any reason whatsoever to disallow Nigerians to travel.
“What we have done is to review the 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 protocol of COVID-19. So, they are bringing in only people who are negative.”
According to the minister, all intending passengers must have tested negative for COVID-19 in the country of departure before boarding. The tests must be done not more than four days before boarding, he said.
The minister also stated that passengers who fail to present a valid COVID-19 test or refuse to go for a repeat test may be placed on a travel watchlist for six months.
“The test must be within four days and we prefer 72 hours pre-boarding. Tests done more than four days before boarding are not valid and passengers will not be allowed to board,” Sirika noted.
“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.
“Once payment is received, passengers will receive an email from the laboratory of their choice for a repeat test seven days after arrival. Passengers will be allowed to choose the sample collection centre and appointment time and date for sample collection centres.”
He noted that airlines that violate the guidelines would be severely sanctioned.
“Airlines that board passengers without a negative COVID-19 test or test result more than four days will be sanctioned as follows:
“Non-Nigerians may be refused a return to a point of embarkation at the cost of the airline.
“So, the airline will bear the cost of taking those people back to where they come from once they are boarded without a negative PCR test result or more than four days prior to boarding.
“Nigerians will be allowed entry but subjected to a mandatory quarantine of 8-14days 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.
“Airlines will be fined $3500 per passenger for failure to comply with the pre-boarding requirements. This is our law.
“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,” the minister added.