The Nigerian government has once again announced the review of travel protocol in response to the significant reduction in the global cases of the coronavirus pandemic.
A memo addressed to all airline operators, among other stakeholders in the aviation industry by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) confirmed that the prevalence of the pandemic in the country and “most parts of the world has remained at a low level for a sustained period.”
NCAA, in the memo which was dated 12 December, and referenced: NCAA/DG/AIR/11/16/358, said the new review was sanctioned by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC), which is headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.
The memo was signed by Musa Nuhu, NCAA’s director-general.
Masks, other protocols
The new protocol has relaxed the rule on the use of facemasks inside airport terminal buildings and onboard aircraft by airport workers, passengers, and crew members, saying it “is no longer mandatory.”
The memo read in part: “Wearing of facemasks by passengers onboard aircraft or inside airport terminal buildings is discretionary but recommended.”
It, however, said persons aged 60 years and above, those who are immunocompromised, and those with co-morbidities are advised to continue the use of facemasks, and should “wash their hands with water and soap, use hand alcohol-based sanitisers, and avoid large gatherings.”
The NCAA also said disinfection of bags at the entrance of terminal buildings is no longer required.
Airlines are also directed to resume serving catering (meals and drinks) on board aircraft.
“Maintaining social distancing at airport terminal buildings is no longer mandatory.
“Facilities and conveyances are advised to maintain good environmental hygiene, good ventilation, encourage good hand and respiratory hygiene.”
NCAA said the PSC’s verdict on pre-departure and post-arrival COVID-19 PCR tests is that all passengers irrespective of their vaccination status are no longer required to show such test results.
“PCR tests required for all passengers who are partially/not fully vaccinated have been suspended.”
Before now, a COVID-19 PCR test was required to be done within 48 hours of departure for all travellers. There was also a mandatory Day-2 Post-arrival COVID-19 PCR test for all travellers arriving in the country.
Partially vaccinated travellers and unvaccinated ones were also expected to self-isolate for seven days and a Day-7 post-arrival negative COVID-19 PCR test is required for exit from isolation.
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Various controversies had trailed Nigeria’s COVID-19 protocol for international travellers. Many complained about the high cost of carrying out a PCR test even as other countries were already stepping down on protocols.
However, with the new protocol, NCAA said all COVID-19 quarantine/travel requirements are hereby made optional.
Health declaration form
Details of the new protocol indicate that permission to travel/QR code is no longer required.
NCAA said a simplified health questionnaire form (non- COVID-19 specific) shall be completed by all passengers travelling to Nigeria preferably pre-departure on the Nigerian International Travel Portal (NITP).
“Passengers who fail to fill the health questionnaire on the NITP pre-departure will be required to fill the health questionnaire either onboard the aircraft before landing or at the airport terminal building upon arrival,” the new protocol stated.
Nigeria’s COVID-19 status
According to statistics from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), 266,283 COVID-19 infections and 3,155 deaths have been recorded in 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Data also shows that as of 9 December, 59,867,077 of the total eligible persons have been fully vaccinated while 12,403,486 of the total eligible persons are partially vaccinated.
The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) said 35 per cent of eligible persons in Nigeria are yet to receive a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Nigeria is 18.5 million eligible persons away from reaching the 70 per cent target population expected to be fully vaccinated by 31-Dec-2022,” it said.
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