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Coronavirus: FG urged to restrict entry points for international airlines to Lagos, Abuja airports

… as airlines cancel flights to Nigeria

Stakeholders in the aviation sector have called on the Federal Government to restrict entry points for international airlines to Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, in a bid to curtail the spread of coronavirus.

This call is coming after Nigerian confirmed its second case of coronavirus.

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John Ojikutu, aviation security consultant and secretary general of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative (ASRTI), told BusinessDay that his suggestion to the Federal Government was to limit the points of entry for foreign airlines to Lagos and Abuja to be able to effectively monitor foreign visitors and reduce pressure on our limited medical facilities to enable Nigeria concentrate on its infected nationals, if any.

Ojikutu said running after visiting foreigners would not only diminish the country’s limited health facilities but stress its insufficient medical staff.

“This idea of travel restrictions must begin with the airlines operators. If any airline brings an infected passenger that tested positive at the point of entry, the directive should ensure that the passenger is refused entry and the airline must take the passenger along on its return journey.

“In the past, cases of airlines carrying passengers that violated rules of entry at destinations attracted fines. The Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) should come out with these directives to airlines with sanctions on breaches,” he said.

Olumide Ohunayo, aviation analyst, said it would be too hasty to put travel restrictions now since the second person tested positive was from the index passenger, therefore Nigeria just needs to continue mop-up of all those affiliated to the index passenger on the flight and when the index passenger moved from Lagos to the base.

“We need to fortify our borders and restrict entry points for international flights to Abuja or Lagos pending when the coronavirus has been curtailed. What is more important is to reduce the multiple entries for airlines.

“For the two entry points, the personnel should be well fortified and have all the equipment they need. We need to get more volunteers and more training should be given to them. My choice on these airports is based on the equipment and personnel stationed at the international entry points of these airports. Other countries are working to curtail it and countries like Germany and Italy who took this for granted are now paying the price,” Ohunayo said.

Trkish Airlines on Tuesday announced that it had cancelled all its flights to Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt to avoid further spread of the coronavirus.

The airline, who flew in the current index case to Nigeria in a statement, says the cancelation of flights to its three destinations in Nigeria is in view of the coronavirus situation all over the world.

The statement says “the cancellations will start for flights originally scheduled to arrive Lagos on March 17, 23 and 29th, while flights for Abuja scheduled for March 13, 16th, 20th, 25th, 27th and April 1, 2020.

“Flights for Port Harcourt will not operate on March 11th 13th 18th, 25th and 25th.”

Cabo Verde Airlines has also suspended its flight operations to Washington from March 8 to May 31, 2020, due to significantly reduced customer demand prompted by global health concerns related to coronavirus or COVID-19.

In a statement by the management of the airline, it notes that passenger demand has decreased because of the coronavirus epidemic that has impacted operations, hence the need to temporarily suspend some flights.

According to the statement: “Cabo Verde will temporarily suspend flights to Washington from March 8 to  May 31  due to significantly reduced customer demand prompted by global health concerns related to coronavirus COVID-19.

“The corona virus outbreak is changing worldwide aviation. As a result of the outbreak, passenger demand has decreased. Consequently, airlines have been trimming services and this also impacts Cabo Verde Airlines.

“Up to now it is not proven scientifically that hot destinations are more safe for COVID-19 contagion, there is no case of COVID-19 in Cape Verde, so Cabo Verde Airlines believes that Sal Island is a safe destination for tourists and will continue to fly in other routes accordingly the market demand.”


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