The United States of America has asked major airlines in the country to abolish the coronavirus safety measure requiring passengers or employees to wear masks within the airports and transit stations.
Authorities in the country said they were lifting the COVID-19 restriction after a federal high court judge on Monday struck down the public health measure, the New York Times reported.
Five major carriers including United and Delta airlines now say masks are now optional for travellers aboard their aircraft in compliance with the directive.
Amid a drop in infections and high vaccination rates, countries are now completely lifting the restrictions they put in place to curb the coronavirus outbreak, with many dropping mask mandates and other restrictions earlier placed on entering social areas.
Most European nations have begun easing coronavirus measures after high vaccination rates and the emergence of omicron as a dominant variant with mild symptoms, despite a continued rise in case numbers.
The raft of announcements, including plans to scrap COVID self-isolation for those who test positive in England, come as health authorities in many regions have argued that the pandemic is entering a new phase and urged populations to begin “learning to live with COVID”.
Concerns over Nigeria’s enforcement of PCR tests
Meanwhile, the easing of safety measures for flights in the U.S. has added steam to mounting concerns over Nigeria’s continued enforcement of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests for Nigerian air travellers amid growing lifting of sanctions globally.
While the U.S. remains the hardest hit by COVID-19 globally having recorded more than 82 million cases and over one million deaths although there has been a decline in infections, it joined many other countries across the globe in easing COVID-19 restrictions, including dropping the PCR tests for travellers.
The U.S. has almost reached the end of the “full blown” pandemic and could reach immunity levels sufficient to limit the spread of the virus soon, Anthony Fauci, Whitehouse top health adviser, had told Financial Times last month.
More than 220 million Americans – 68 per cent of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nigeria on the other hand with a little over 255,000 infections and more than 3,000 deaths is still enforcing compulsory PCR tests; costing passengers between N40,000 to N45, 000 in Lagos and Abuja.
The latest international travel guideline issued by the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 eased mandatory Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing only for fully vaccinated visitors while it retained the stiff rules for those travelling out of Nigeria.
The ‘Provisional Travel Protocol for Travellers Arriving Nigeria’ announced by the chairman of the PSC and secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, which took effect from Monday, April 4, also prescribes sanctions for airlines that bring violators of the new rules.
Mustapha said that the new guideline prescribed for the fully vaccinated would apply to travellers between ages 10 and 18 years.
He said that unvaccinated or partially vaccinated international travelers would still be required to take the PCR test 48 hours before boarding a flight to Nigeria.
Many travellers have raised concerns over the new directive, saying the continued enforcement of strict COVID-19 test is a rip-off, as there is a global drop in coronavirus cases and Nigeria records relatively very low cases at the worst of times.
Asides flight restrictions, Nigeria is not left out in the global lifting of COVID-19 sanctions with last week’s easing of most of the remaining safety rules which included a nighttime curfew and limitations on gatherings, imposed at the start of the outbreak in Africa’s most populous country.
Globally, more than 505 million cases and over 6.2 million deaths have been recorded.
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