There were strong indications on Sunday that relevant state governments and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control were not enforcing the 14-day self-isolation for inbound international travellers.
It was gathered that no official of the NCDC or the concerned state governments was attached to the new arrivals, who were expected to be in isolation in their homes for 14 days.
The Federal Government on February 9 placed travel restrictions on 100 passengers for failing to comply with the mandatory Day 7 post-arrival COVID-19 test.
Government had in January placed similar travel restrictions on 100 travellers who failed to undergo the compulsory COVID-19 test after returning into the country.
But besides failing to turn up for the test, investigations by our correspondents revealed that many travellers had not been observing the 14- day self-isolation.
Many inbound international travellers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated that they shunned self-isolation.
An information and communications technology, who came back from Canada two weeks ago told one of our correspondents that unlike in Canada, where somebody would be asked to keep a close watch on an international passenger, nobody checked whether he was observing self-isolation or not.
He stated, “Nobody monitored me., I went out on the fifth day, but I ensured that I used my face mask. I will advise relevant government agencies to enforce compliance with 14-day self-isolation.”
Another passenger, who arrived from the United States last month, said that he was in isolation for only five days and started going out on the sixth day.
“There is no enforcement of self-isolation. Everybody is on his own. I only stayed at home for five days,” he stated.
A resident of Enugu, the Enugu State capital, in an interview said his cousin flew in from New York in December and headed to Enugu from Lagos for a burial.
“He did not go into isolation either in Lagos or Enugu. He was just mixing freely with people without using a face mask,” the Enugu resident stated.
Our priority on testing, not compulsory isolation, says LASG
When contacted, the Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho, said the state government was placing more emphasis on testing of air passengers than their compulsory isolation.
Omotosho, who spoke on Sunday, said the state only monitored travellers who sought help through the Eko TeleMed facility.
He said, “When this thing started, people were being put into isolation. But now, what is important is for people to know their status. So, when you do the test there (country where you’re coming from), and you book that you will also do the test when you get to Lagos, we ensure you do the test. It is not like we go to people’s homes to monitor them.
“But we have our Lagos TeleMed facility that we use to monitor people who report their conditions to us or who want to have a conversation on the virus. But it is not like you go from one house to the other. There is a data bank at the airport that will show whether you have done the test or not. Before, it was a case of people using fake test results, but that is not possible again because everything is now computerised. As soon as you do the test in the testing centres, it shows up here and they will know if you have done the test.”
The commissioner said the state’s major problem was disbelief of the virus among some residents, who despite reports from people who had been infected, still acted as if the pandemic was peculiar to a class of people in society.
The acting Secretary, Federal Capital Territory Health and Human Services Secretariat, Dr Mohammed Kawu, in an interview with The PUNCH, stated that enforcing compliance with the 14-day self-isolation remained a challenge.
The epidemiology and surveillance team, he said, got information from the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport about incoming travellers.
He noted that enforcing compliance with self-isolation remained a challenge, adding that the individuals who came in from abroad were expected to self-isolate if they tested negative for coronavirus.
Kawu stated, “Those that are positive would be taken into the treatment centre while those negative would be allowed to go home for self-isolation but monitoring people on isolation is a challenge.
“As far as I’m concerned, it is a personal responsibility that everybody has to take. Getting people to stay home is a challenge but that is the policy. If we find you violating it, we would take action.”
When asked about the number of those sanctioned for violating the policy, he said, “I have not had any official or formal incidences of people not obeying.”
Passengers shun isolation: FAAN shifts concern to NCDC
On why some inbound passengers at the NAIA were not observing the 14- day mandatory isolation, the spokesperson for the airport, Voke Ivbaze, distanced her agency from the development.
She said, “The ports health under the Federal Ministry of Health and the NCDC are the agencies in charge. Our job is to facilitate the entry and exit of passengers from the airport.
“Issues of COVID-19 and how it affects passengers are mainly handled by the NCDC and the port health officials. So, matters of passenger isolation should be under their purview.”
Ivbaze argued that FAAN had been carrying out its functions at airports by ensuring that all inbound and outbound travellers observed the mandatory safety protocols to present the spread of the virus at airports.
Mandatory isolation is controlled by NCDC not states – Kano official
On its part, the Kano State Government said the issue of observing 14 days mandatory isolation by travellers was being controlled by the NCDC, not the state task force.
The Coordinator of the state Task Force on COVID-19, Dr Tijjani Hussaini, disclosed this in a telephone interview with The PUNCH in Kano on Sunday.
He stated, “The issue of the 14-day mandatory isolation by travellers coming into the country is being controlled by the NCDC in Abuja.
“What I know is that the travellers normally fill a form and indicate where they want to observe the 14 days mandatory isolation and that is being handled by the NCDC in Abuja,” he said.
The task force coordinator, who declined to state whether the state had put in place measures to ensure that travellers arriving in Kano observe the 14 days isolation, said, “I don’t want to give you a wrong information but I know it is being controlled by NCDC in Abuja.”
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer, Malam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano, Mrs Maimuna Tadafe, said he had travelled out of the state.
“I cannot talk to you now because I have travelled out of the state,” Tadafe said.
Similarly, when contacted, the Head of Department, Medical, Malam Aminu Kano International Airport (MAKIA), Dr Dan Ladi, said he could not speak on the issue but directed The PUNCH to the Ports Health unit of the Airport.
“I cannot speak to you on this issue. You can go to the Ports Health unit of the airport tomorrow (Monday) to talk to them,” he said.
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria said the Port Harcourt International Airport had yet to commence international flights.
Assistant General Manager, Corporate Affairs, FAAN, Port Harcourt International Airport, Akinbode Kunle, stated this in a chat with one of our correspondents.
Kunle said the Port Harcourt will commence foreign flight as soon as it gets the go ahead to do so by the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19.
He stated, “It is your first point of entry that makes sure you go through those protocols. Ours is local. We are connecting local. For those people that came in through the eastern heartland or through the South-South, it was local they used.”
The Murtala Muhammed International Airport Airport Manager, Mrs Victoria Shin-Aba directed one of our correspondents to the Ports Health Services for more information regarding how the department was curtailing the pandemic.
However, the Director of Port Health Services, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Morenike Alex-Okoh, failed to respond to one of our correspondents’ calls and text messages at the point of filing this report.
Efforts to get reactions of the NCDC Director General, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, did not succeed as he did not pick calls to his phone nor responded to an SMS as of the time of sending this report.
But the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, in his reaction, said, “If that observation (People shunning isolation) is true, it is sad that there are people who are not heeding the advisories. It is better for people to voluntarily comply, rather than considering the sanctions which ordinarily should be the final resolve.
“It is better because we are talking of public health which affects you and affects me. So, it is in the interest of all of us if everybody plays his or her own part to keep safe.
So, when we said this, it is not because we are interested in sanctions. Yes, when it becomes inevitable, we have to apply the sanctions. I’m saying that it is better, more productive and beneficial to all of us if everyone comply with the advisories.”