Nigeria has evacuated no fewer than 317 nationals stranded in the UK as a result of coronavirus pandemic, government officials said.
The evacuees arrived at Nnamdi Azikiwe Int’l Airport, Abuja Sunday night after a take-off delay at Heathrow Airport, London by Air Peace.
The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in a Twitter post, said the returnees included nine infants.
According to the Foreign Affairs minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, the plane conveying the Nigerians departed the Heathrow Airport in London hours after experiencing “operational” delay during take-off.
“@flyairpeace evacuation flight APK 7801 from Heathrow Airport London, just departed with 317 passengers including 9 infants after several hours delay, due to operational reasons,” he said in a tweet.
@flyairpeace evacuation flight APK 7801 from Heathrow Airport London, just departed with 317 passengers including 9 infants after several hours delay, due to operational reasons. pic.twitter.com/ceP1Q4Y8MA
— Geoffrey Onyeama (@GeoffreyOnyeama) June 28, 2020
NIDCOM said 175 of the evacuees disembarked in Abuja and the remaining 142 people proceeded to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.
All the returnees tested negative to COVID-19 and would proceed on a 14-day self-isolation as mandated by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Federal Ministry of Health, and the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the agency said.
This is contrary to what Mr Onyeama said during one of the daily Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefings earlier this month.
With Nigeria’s new policy to evacuate at least 500 of its nationals stranded in foreign lands during the pandemic weekly for a month, Mr Onyeama said evacuees would no longer go into 14-day government monitored quarantine if they test negative from their countries of residence.
He said this is so because evacuees will have to be tested at most nine days before their flight takes off.
The minister said the new policy is to ensure evacuees get tested and self-quarantine at home rather than in selected hotels.
“The passengers will then be able to go home and not into prescribed hotels to self-isolate (quarantine). The whole issue of quarantine in hotels will no longer be necessary,” he had earlier said.
In the meantime, Nigeria has already airlifted hundreds of its citizens from the UK, U.S., Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused over 500,000 deaths globally.