The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Monday issued a new protocol for the evacuation of Nigerians abroad who are willing to return home.
The PTF Coordinator, Dr. Sani Aliyu, who reeled out details of the new guidelines at the daily press briefing by the panel in Abuja on Monday, said the Federal Government would no longer bear the cost of the transport fares of the intending evacuees and their accommodation when they arrive home.
He said it was no longer sustainable for the government to continue to bear the costs.
Aliyu added that the evacuees would be made to sign an undertaking that they would undergo PCR testing for COVID-19 before boarding in their countries of departure, make arrangements for their accommodation either in Lagos or Abuja where they would self-isolate for 14 days, and undergo a repeat test within 72 hours of their arrival in Nigeria.
He explained that the evacuees must test negative for COVID 19 before they would be allowed to board the Nigeria-bound flight.
Aliyu, who said there were over 4,000 Nigerians abroad willing to come back home, added that the evacuees’ passports would be seized by immigration authorities for the 14 days period of their self-isolation.
He said, “It is essential that this time around we get it right. It is also important that we make the best use of the public resources available to us so that we have an arrangement that is sustainable that would allow the more than 4,000 Nigerians that are currently outside the country to come in and join their families.
“At the same time, the PTF has the responsibility of mitigating risk and making sure that we do not increase the number of cases of COVID-19 we have in the country or increase the risk of transmission.”
He added, “The key part of the proposal is that there will be a need for Nigerians that are currently outside the country to undergo PCR test for COVID-19 before they board. This test needs to be valid for at least 14 days.
“In other words, if the test is done beyond 14 days it will not be accepted. And prior to boarding, they will be required to provide an undertaking that they will follow the necessary precaution and they will need to stay in Lagos or Abuja and make arrangement for their own accommodation in these two cities for the period of 14 days.
“The main difference with what we have been doing in the past is that, unlike in the past, we will not be responsible for the transportation or the accommodation of Nigerians coming in. They will need to make their arrangements of staying in Lagos or Abuja not only for the period of testing but also for the period of self-isolation.
“But if they wish to stay at home, they will be provided to undergo self-isolation at home, they will be tested when they arrive. They would have had a test, it has to be negative before they board the flight.
“When they board the flight and come into the country within 72 hours they will have a repeat test to make sure they have not developed COVID-19.
“They will now be followed up through a strict process of supervised isolation where they will be contacted on a regular basis everyday and monitored for the presence of symptoms that might require them to be taken into treatment if they subsequently become positive.”
He called on Nigerians abroad to register with the relevant Nigerian mission to be cleared for evacuation.
He added that the emphasis would be “on people in challenging circumstances abroad including short term visitors, those on medical or official trips, those on family holidays, pregnant women, elderly and students.”
He said on the arrival of the evacuees, “they will undergo the usual necessary process at the airport and the passport will be retained by immigration authorities”.
He also said, “We will make sure that they follow the usual guidelines that we have in terms of physical distancing, the use of facemask etc. we have already worked with relevant airport authorities in Lagos and Abuja to make sure adaptation are done to the airport to show that these policies are followed through.
“After the testing, they will be allowed to go home and self-isolate. We will give them free travelers kits which will contain a digital thermometer, temperature monitoring form, alcohol based-hand sanitisers, information on self-quarantine and how to do it, as well as pamphlet on COVID 19 and some face basks.
“They will continue to be contacted by relevant NCDC staff to ensure that this process is going according to plan.”
He said the evacuees would only be allowed to leave after 14 days of self-isolation.
He said the Federal Government was planning to evacuate 1,000 Nigerians per week.
“It is important that we get this process to work because we have more than 4,000 Nigerians outside the country. We need to smoothen it, we need to make sure that we can bring in up to 1,000 Nigerians per week so that we clear the backlog over the next four weeks,” the PTF Coordinator said.
On the feed feedback in terms of compliance with the COVID-19 restrictions, Aliyu said a poll conducted last week showed, “that 98 per cent of Nigerians were aware of COVID-19, 92 per cent intended to adhere to the message, 90 per cent of the respondents trusted the source, 98 per cent received messages on preventive measures and 98 per cent knew what to do.”