…..Moves to confiscate passports of erring travelers
By Omeiza Ajayi, Abuja
The Federal Government has lamented the lack of compliance with the PCR test protocol by about 65 percent of Nigerians returning to the country, saying it has taken steps to seize the international passports of erring returnees.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF and Chairman of The Presidential Taskforce PTF on COVID-19, Mr Boss Mustapha disclosed this on Tuesday in Abuja at a news briefing.
He said; “As you may recall, the PTF announced the guidelines on the reopening of the airspace and the obligations of arriving passengers. The PTF similarly announced sanctions as a consequence of any infraction.
Having observed serious non-compliance to the level of 65%, the need has arisen to activate the sanctions which includes the suspension of the passports of such defaulting individuals for a period of six months minimum”.
Mustapha also highlighted the resurgence of the pandemic in Europe and the United States of America USA, warming that Nigeria remain at risk of importation, having opened its airspace and massive spread as a result of the protests.
“The next week or two remain critical. The PTF has noted with sadness the failure of Nigerians who arrived from abroad to present themselves for the in-country PCR test which they signed up to and paid before arrival. Statistics emerging from our records show that only one out of three passengers have shown up for the in-country test”, the SGF stated.
Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire expressed concerns at the decline in the testing rate in several States of the Federation.
He said records have consistently shown that only Lagos and the FCT have met the testing target of at least 1% of the population.
According to him, “Plateau, Rivers and Gombe have reached over 50% of target, while 25 states are yet to reach 25% of their population. We do not have the confidence to draw firm conclusions on our status, till this situation improves.
“Our concern is heightened by several emerging factors that challenge whatever gains we may have made in recent months:the inevitable need to reopen air travel, to stimulate economic activities, the imminent Reopening of schools and Youth Service, again necessary for restoration of social order, but which global experience links with spikes in COVID infection rates in most countries the effect of recent social agitation and unrest, with attendant disruption of services and widespread breach of all infection prevention protocols, the growing lackadaisical attitude to COVID-19 and disregard for safety and simple infection prevention and control measures, which I must admit, is not peculiar to our country.
“While we still evaluate the impact of recent unguarded mass gatherings in various parts of the country as a risk factor for spreading COVID-19, my concern is that we may find a spike in confirmed cases, with the widespread disregard for preventive measures associated with large gatherings and movements.
We must take collective responsibility for each others actions, if we are not to experience the upsurges in new cases experienced in many other countries, and a throwback to conditions worse than the present”.
He said preliminary reports show that contact tracing and case finding have declined in states with a consequent reduction in the number of persons tested.
Ehanire renewed his call on states and stakeholders to step up testing capacity, to help identify positive cases for Isolation or treatment and protect the rest of the population.
“The evolving global situation of covid19 gives us much reason for concern. Over 2.8 million cases were reported last one week, with half of the cases in Europe. The UK, France, Germany, Spain and others in Europe have resorted to lockdown and other measures, to control the pandemic. With the high volume of air traffic between Nigeria and Europe, we are examining the associated risk factors for Nigeria. The PTF has set up stringent criteria and measures so far, to limit COVID-19 importation: nevertheless, 18 travelers out of over 78,000 arrivals, were found to be covid positive at the second testing in Nigeria.
This is a relatively small number, but it could increase with rising volume of flights.
Moreover, it is estimated that traveler non-compliance with 2nd testing after arrival, is significant, which is a challenge we are responding to in innovative ways, as we work constantly to improve the arrival processes for better protection of citizens”, he added.