COVID-19 test: Govt to suspend passports of errant travellers for six months

The federal government on Thursday warned international travellers arriving the country to carry out COVID-19 test within 14 days of their arrival.

The National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF), Dr Sani Aliyu, said at the task force’s briefing in Abuja that such Nigerian travellers who failed to carry out the PCR COVID-19 test within the stipulated period would have their passports suspended for six months, while foreigners would have their visas on their way out of the country cancelled.

He explained that a passenger must have a negative PCR COVID-19 test, upload it on the prescribed portal and generate a QR Code, before departure and must pay for another test within seven days, and undergo the test within 14 days of arriving Nigeria.

He said, “We are urging passengers coming into the country to make sure they pay for their COVID-19 PCR test by day 7 of arrival. If passengers do not have a test for COVID 19 by day 14,  our system will pick up these passengers and if it is very clear they haven’t had a test for COVID 19 , the passports will be suspended  for a period of six months.

“Therefore, it is really essential for non-Nigerians, their visas on their way out of Nigeria will be cancelled. So, they might have difficulties coming to the country.”

He said although government continued “to have issues with payment” for the PCR test by arriving passengers, it would “not insist on evidence of payment before boarding, but we will be releasing a strong recommendation to airlines that preferably people come onboard with the QR Code.”

Aliyu said it was unrealistic and unsustainable for the Federal Government to bear the cost of the PCR test for every passenger arriving the country.

He said, “Currently about 5,000 air travellers come in and out of Nigeria, and the PTF wants to ensure that we do not lose the gains made in the response.

“It is therefore critical that passengers are tested and follow protocols correctly. When fully open, the number of passengers going through the country is not small. At the moment, our daily testing number is about two and a half thousand (2,500) per day. If we add the passenger numbers coming, potentially, we are tripling the number of tests we do every day, and that is why we have to use the private sector to get this leverage while at the same time  working to bring down the cost for passengers.

“Therefore it will it be costly and unrealistic for the Federal Government to bear the cost for test for each passenger coming into Nigeria. This  will not only be unsustainable but will also redirect precious resources away from the public health response.”

Aliyu also said it was unnecessary to subject resuming students to the coronavirus test.

He said it would amount to an unnecessary financial burden on parents to ask students to provide COVID-19 test as condition for resuming schools.

He said what was more important was for schools to enforce compliance with the non-pharmaceutical measures and be vigilant in monitoring children and quickly isolating the them on showing the first suspected sign of COVID.

He said, “If you do a PCR test today, the greatest value it has is if it is positive. If it is negative, that negative result applies to the time the sample was taken. Beyond that, 48, 72 hours three days, four days, you are tested, you can still come up with a positive result.

“So when it comes to students in schools, we encourage schools to be vigilant to make sure they monitor children that are sick, check temperature, to make sure they have access to hand-washing facilities, in terms of non-pharmaceutical interventions, and to have a very low threshold for making sure that a child is excluded at the first sign that they might have COVID.

“In general children do not present symptoms, but they may still have respiratory symptoms. Even in the absence of COVID, a child having a rashes, having  diarrhoea or having a cough, ideally should be excluded from school if he is unwell, so that other children do not catch the diseases.

“These are sensitive precautions that we will urge schools to take. It will be an unnecessary burden on parents, to be honest, for students to be tested for COVID by PCR or whatever because, it has value only for that material time.

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