[By VICTOR NZE]
After opting for stiffer travel requirements on inbound passengers from the United Kingdom and South Africa instead of outright ban, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), said weekend, it will fine airlines $3,500 for each passenger who flouts the new rules announced last Thursday.
The NCAA also said the affected airline may be required to return non-Nigerian defaulting passengers to point of embarkation for non compliance with Nigerian government’s rules concerning the United Kingdom and South Africa.
It would be recalled that last Thursday, Federal Government, through the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 (PTF), during its Thursday briefing in Abuja, informed that inbound UK, South African travellers would now be required to submit themselves to these fresh regulations in addition to others already in place since the country resumed international flight operations in September.
This was an option taken by the PTF as against a total ban on flights from these two countries with reported and confirmed cases of the new Covid-19 variant.
National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu, who reeled out the requirements at the PTF briefing said violation would attract heavy penalties for the travelers.
“There are new traveling requirements for people traveling from the UK and South Africa effective from 0001 hours on Monday, December 28, 2020.
“It is the responsibility of those passengers to make sure they familiarise themselves with these new rules, and airlines will be informed accordingly.
“We will open a special register at the airport for all passengers arriving from these two countries.
“We will have an enhanced surveillance so that these passengers will be contacted after they have arrived home.
“We will be checking on them to see if they are having symptoms.
“But even more importantly by Day 7, we expect these passengers just like any other passengers coming from outside the country to unfailingly go for COVID PCR test which you must have paid for before boarding the aircraft.”
Before now, international passengers were generally required to visit the Nigerian international travel portal to upload their negative COVID PCR result, generate a Permit to Travel document, also referred to as the QR Code, and also pay for the second PCR COVID test that would be conducted on them by their seventh day of arrival in the country.
According to Aliyu, penalties including passport or visa suspension for at least six months would be imposed on violators, adding further that the passport numbers of the first 100 violators of international travel protocols would be published by the weekend.
“If you do not do your Day 7 test by Day 10, you will automatically go on to the suspension list and your travel documents, your passport will be suspended for a minimum period of six months.
“If you carry a foreign passport with a visa, we will revoke your visa. And because it is easier to track a smaller group of persons than a large number of passengers which has always been the challenge that we have, we are now able to enforce this specifically for passengers coming from these routes until further notice,” Aliyu said.
However, the NCAA has now issued an AOL to all indigenous and foreign operators flying into Nigeria stating that passengers flying from the United Kingdom and South Africa must present Pre-departure permit to fly/ QR Code generated from Nigeria international travel portal and a documentary evidence of a Negative Covid-19 PCR test result done within 96 hours of boarding.
The NCAA in its latest AOL issued, Saturday, and addressed to Country and Accountable Managers said government through the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19 has reviewed the quarantine protocols to include that passengers originating from both UK and SA would be received and processed separately by public health authorities.
The CAA also stated that all the new travel rules would be applicable to both scheduled and non scheduled passengers from both countries.
The AOL signed by the Director General of NCAA Captain Musa Nuhu read, “With the recent spike in cases of Covid-19 in Nigeria and the reported transmissible new variant of the virus in the United Kingdom and South Africa, the Nigerian government through Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19 has reviewed the quarantine protocols.
“ 1. Passengers originating from United Kingdom (UK) and South Africa: For flights and passengers originating from United Kingdom (UK) and South Africa with final destination being Nigeria the following shall apply.”
Passengers must present the following two documents in order to be allowed to board their flights to Nigeria: (a) Pre-departure permitto fly/ QR code generated from the Nigeria International travel portal (https://nitp.ncdc.gov.ng) showing evidence of payment for the post arrival day 7 COVID-19 PCR test and (b) Documentary evidence of a Negative COVID-19 PCR result done within 96 hours(4days) of boarding from verifiable laboratory or health facility.
On arrival in Nigeria, passengers will be received and processed separately by public health authorities
All passengers will be required to self isolate for 7 days after arrival followed by COVID-19 PCR test
Passengers with a post arrival Negative COVID-19 PCR result can exit self isolation and further management]
A dedicated register of arriving passengers from the United Kingdom and South Africa will be opened and enhanced for surveillance and active enforcement of these protocols.
According to the NCAA, the rules apply to all airlines with passengers originating from the United Kingdom and South Africa regardless of transit arrangements. The CAA also said the new rules are applicable to scheduled and non scheduled flights from the United Kingdom and South Africa.
The NCAA further clarified that the earlier quarantine protocol which became effective from 18th September 2020 shall continue to subsist for flights originating from other countries except for the validity of the Pre-departure PCR test result which will now be 96 hours from date of departure.
On non-compliance, the NCAA stated categorically,” Punitive measures shall be taken against airlines who fail to comply with this All Operators Letters. The punitive measures shall include but not limited to the following:
“(i) Airlines shall be fines $3,500 (Three thousand five hundred dollars) for each defaulting passenger. (ii)Airlines may be required to return non-Nigerian defaulting passengers to point of embarkation. (iii) Repeated non-compliance by any airline will lead to the suspension of the airline’s approval/permit to fly into the country.”