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Covid-19: Hope rises as FG set to announce resumption of flights next week

…Says face shields not sufficient to prevent transmission

The Aviation sector may bounce back to life in the coming days as the Federal Government said it is ready to announce resumption of domestic flights next week having put all the necessary measures in place for safe and smooth flight operations.

The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who was represented by the Director General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Musa Nuhu, made this known during the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on the containment of the Covid-19 in Abuja on Thursday.

Nuhu said that the NCAA is closing the gaps in developing precautionary protocol for the resumption of domestic flights but did not give specific date for resumption.

Stakeholders in the industry had banked hope on resumption of flights on June 21, but government said the date was not feasible citing certain development that will not guarantee smooth operations.

Nuhu said however, that since last week, the agency has made significant progress in the readiness to restart. “The gaps have been closed. However, we still have a few gaps in the aviation system and this would be closed hopefully in the next couple of days. We must get it right both on the issues of technical safety and health safety of all stakeholders,” he said.

He added that the agency will conduct further scrutiny at both Lagos and Abuja airports coming up this Saturday. “After this we will observe and see the gaps that might still be there and close them. We will announce a date of resumption shortly sometime next week,” he added.

Also speaking the Director General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Ihekweazu said face shields are not sufficient to prevent transmission of covid-19 and should therefore be used in addition to face masks.

Ihekweazu observed that there has been an increasing use of face shield by Nigerians, he said though they are great, they should not be used in place of face masks.

“It is not sufficient to protect the population, we should gradually evolve out of face shields and back to masks”, Ihekweazu said.

The DG also clarified that the loss of smell and/or taste have been recognised globally as symptoms of COVID-19. He noted that tbough there are few other diseases that would cause these symptoms, it’s most likely that it is linked with an increasing incidence of covid-19.

He urged citizens to adhere to public health measures and recognise the need to pay closer attention to the elderly those with underlying medical conditions as they are most vulnerable.

On private sector partnership to ramp up testing, the DG said a lot of private sector laboratories have indicated interest and are playing a role already; he said Lagos is the state with the highest number of private laboratories. He however acknowledged that the process of accreditation is complicated and cumbersome for the private sectors.

Ihekweazu also said, the NCDC is working with states to ramp up sample collection, which he identified as a major challenge. He urged Nigerians to hold the NCDC and state government responsible.

“We have provided testing infrastructure by the end of tomorrow, we will roll out GeneXperts to seven states. Access to testing is no longer out cahllenge, but collecting samples”.

He noted that testing is not the final solution, but an entry point to clinical care and public health management.

 

 

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