Henceforth, airlines that fail to comply with international flight COVID-19 protocols will be fined $3,500 per passenger, the Presidential Task Force on the Coronavirus pandemic said on Monday.
Also passengers who are on self-quarantine but fail to show up for a repeat of the PCR (polymerise chain reaction) test will have his/her name on international watch list and electronic passport suspended.
The National Coordinator of PTF, Dr Sani Aliyu, told a media briefing in Abuja that the new protocols would be strictly applicable to passengers coming into the country from foreign countries.
According to him, it is safe to shorten the isolation period for incoming passengers from 14 days to eight days from August 29.
“From the 29th of August, travellers will be required to pay for their COVID-19 test in-country. We are developing a national payment portal, which will link to the current Lagos payment portal that is already active. We will continue with the policy of ensuring that airlines only board passengers without symptoms of COVID-19 and with negative PCR result.
“Airlines will be fined $3,500 per passenger if they fail to comply with pre-boarding COVID-19 requirements. On arrival in-country from the 29th of August, passports will no longer be retained by the Nigerian Immigration Service, rather, passengers will be allowed to proceed and exit the airport once they can show evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR result, evidence of payment for a PCR result in-country and where possible and where we have been able to sort this health questionnaire form that has been submitted either manually or electronically.
“Passengers will be asked to proceed on self-isolation at home for a period of seven days. On day seven, they will proceed to sample collection center or laboratory for a repeat COVID-19 PCR test, by day eight, if the PCR test is negative, they will be allowed to exit isolation.
“Based on a rigorous scientific review, the PTF has decided that it will be safe to shorten the current quarantine period or self-isolation for passengers coming into the country from 14 days to eight days, provided they have a negative PCR test result from day seven. Passengers will be monitored by public health officers throughout the period of self-isolation, those who develop symptoms will be treated in the same way that we currently manage our COVID-19 positive patients,” Aliyu said.
He said the protocol would be reviewed after four weeks, adding “we will also be looking at the level of discrepancy between positive results with a view to developing a list of accredited laboratories for countries we frequently receive travelers from. In that regard, once we have a list of regulated laboratories, we would insist that all passengers use these centres for the test.
Aliyu also said:“All intended travelers to Nigeria must have tested negative for COVID-19 PCR before allowed entry into the country. We are narrowing the period of validity of PCR test from the current 14 days to 7 days from 29th of August. Preferably, the PCR test should be done as closed as possible to the point of departure for Nigeria, preferably from 48 to 72 hours, but we will still accept result that are valid for seven days.
“Prior to boarding, we are currently developing a payment portal. As you are aware, at the moment, the PCR test that we have been doing for evacuated passengers has been sponsored by Aliko Dangote Foundation. We are very grateful for their generosity; we have had more than 13,000 stranded Nigerians brought into the country as a result of this process. But from the 29th August, travelers will be required to pay for their COVID-19 test in country.
“We are developing a national payment portal which we will link to the current Lagos payment portal that is already active for passengers and we will allow accredited, validated private laboratories to provide these services. We will provide you with additional information on the payment portals and information on the list of accredited private laboratories providers as well as collection centers across the country on the payment platform as well as the NCDC website.”
The Coordinator added: “On arrival in the country from the 29th of August, passports will no longer be retained by the Nigeria Immigration Service, rather passengers will be allowed to proceed and exit the airport once they have a negative COVID PRC result, evidence of payment for a repeat PRC result in country and where possible and where we have been able to sort out, health questionnaire which must have been submitted either manually or electronically.
“Passengers will be asked to proceed on self-isolation at home for a period of seven days. On day seven, they will proceed on their sample collection center or laboratories for a repeat COVID PRC result. So on the eighth, if the PRC test is negative, they will be allowed to exit isolation.”
On compliance with the COVID-19 protocols, the PTF Coordinator said the body was working with Nigeria Immigration Service to design a system that will determine those who have not submitted themselves for a repeat of PRC test from day seven upwards.