The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on the COVID-19 Pandemic has expressed worries over the continued violation of international travel protocols such as the presentation of fake COVID-19 test results by returnees to the country.
Speaking, on Monday, during the weekly media briefing by the task force in Abuja, the PTF and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, also said many travellers who paid for post-arrival COVID-19 test have refused to go to take the test.
Mustapha, therefore, vowed that the PTF would be enforcing sanctions on violators, saying that about 300 names of violators had been compiled for appropriate actions.
He stated: “The PTF has been evaluating the compliance of Nigerians with the protocols for testing by in-bound and out-bound travellers. It has been discovered that some of these travellers have indulged in presenting fake documents.
“Some, that have paid for post-arrival testing have failed to show up for the tests. Statistics show the following as at 9/11/2020: Total No of bookings: 91,522. Total No of passengers exempted: 5,470 (6%).
“Children: 1,248 (1.36%). Diplomats: 3,392 (3.7%). Evacuees: 830 (0.9%). Total Passengers expected to Pay: 86,052(94%), Paid: 46,982 (54.6%), Not Paid: 39,070(45.45%).
“Travellers that have arrived in-country but have not paid (approximately 39,000) amount paid to private labs by passengers who have refused to take the post-arrival 7-day test: NGN220 – 270 Million Naira.
“The PTF is concluding steps to work with relevant institutions and legal authorities to impose appropriate sanctions on those that default on the protocols. The Port Health Services will elaborate more on this.”
The SGF said that within the last two weeks, flights from Europe (the Air France, Lufthansa and KLM) resumed their operations into Nigeria, subject to details agreed to with the aviation authorities.
He said that the various guidelines and the testing regime prescribed for in-bound passengers shall remain strictly in force.
“We shall continue to study the challenges encountered and reinforce the protocols as the need arises, considering the new wave around the world,” he said.
Mustapha said that now that European airlines have joined others operating into Nigeria, the PTF still considers it highly necessary to caution as always, against non-essential trips (especially to high burden destinations) because the world is now experiencing a new wave of the pandemic, more than ever before.
“Ahead of the upsurge in travels for the Christmas and New Year festivities, we urge strongly that for this year, such trips should be put on hold firmly because of the risks involved.
“The transmission rate has simply become astronomical. The PTF similarly finds it necessary to mention that during the Christmas and New Year festivities, large social gatherings should also be avoided because there is a bigger risk of COVID-19 transmission.
“New clusters of cases can emerge in places that have so far been unaffected as people travel and gather for festivities. But we can lower the risks by adhering to the NPIs and celebrate, safely.
“There will always be many more festive seasons to celebrate,” the SGF said.
Speaking on the impact of the pandemic on the economy, Mustapha observed that though the contraction of the economy is still in the negative, he observed that with the various efforts so far made by the administration to salvage the situation, the economy should come out of recession in the first quarter of 2021.
“We are all aware that the pandemic has taken a toll on the global economy generally. Several economies have been reported to have gone into recession. This is going to exert more pressure on our national response and the level of compliance of our citizens. Nigeria’s economy shrank from -6.10% in Q2 2020 to -3.62 % in Q3 2020.
“Although this is still in the negative territory, it is a positive indication that by Q1-2021 we should come out of recession given the targets and objectives of the revised 2020 Budget.
“This is bolstered by the fact that the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) is on course and its implementation would be intensified. Last week, the Federal Executive Council passed the Finance Bill initiated by the Executive. It contains several incentives that are business-friendly and targeted at easing the burden as well as promoting businesses,” he said.
Mustapha noted that the developments at home and around the world particularly in the United States of America and in Europe remain major sources of concern to the PTF.
According to him, this is particularly so because of the risk perception which is low in-country.
He further said: “Our compliance with Non-Pharmaceutical measures is extremely low to the extent that Nigerians now think COVID-19 is no more; the response of citizens to testing and detection is very low.
“The risk of importation will be higher with the opening of our airspace; and the numbers in Nigeria, though appearing low over the last two weeks, has been rising gradually.”
Also speaking on international travels, the PTF National Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, said the task force will discourage Nigerians to desist from travelling this holiday season because of the upsurge of coronavirus.
He said: “As we are aware we are approaching a very busy season, where we see a surge in passenger travel. The aim of the PTF over the next few weeks is to discourage travel, especially non-essential travel.”
Aliyu added:: “COVID-19 has changed the world, the way we interact, the way we deliver our services and it has to change the way we travel as well.
“We are actively discouraging non-essential travels. Essential travels are if you have to travel for study, work purposes, humanitarian services, travel to support critical infrastructure, economic services and maintaining supply chain arrangements. Outside this, if you do not need to travel, please stay where you are over this period.
“At the moment, we are a lot of travel restrictions going on in Europe and other places, if numbers continue to increase and we notice importation of infections, we will review our policy. I am not saying we will ban flights but I am also saying that we will do everything necessary to protect ourselves from a surge.
“So, if you don’t want to be stranded whether in Nigeria or outside the country, think again about travelling over this period. If it is not essential to stay put. There will be other seasons, there will be other celebrations especially with vaccines now being available across the board it is very likely that travels will be sorted, so all the testing and monitoring will go away.
“Once we have effective vaccines, I am sure the travelling community will soon imposing rules on the need for vaccination, so once you are vaccinated it’s very unlikely that there will be restrictions.
So all these inconveniences are for a short period of time.”
PTF raises concern over travellers’ fake COVID-19 test results
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