By Ahmed Rahma
Nigeria is considering suspending international travel as a precautionary measure over new the COVID-19 strain which the federal government says is manifesting itself in the United Kingdom.
Speaking at a special forum of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, said there was yet no proof that the new variant was more contagious but the nation was taking precautionary measures.
“We are more concerned about the new strain of Covid-19, which is manifesting itself in the UK; that is the mutated strain.
“It is difficult to detect. It spreads faster, and people have been known to die of it within a very short period of its detection. This is a major concern to us as a country.
“While I do not want to pre-empt the PTF because we are meeting this afternoon (Monday), it is going to be top on the agenda of our discussions. I will not be surprised if that will be the recommendation of the committee which is meeting later today,” the Minister said in Abuja on Monday.
He added that, “This season, many students are coming from the UK in particular, to come and join their families in Nigeria.
“Besides, many of our people, because of the traditional link we have with the UK, may want to go there for business or family reunion.
“It is a very testy time, and it might be another dangerous period to transmit this new variant of COVID-19.”
Mr Mohammed noted that many European countries like The Netherlands, Ireland, Bulgaria, Austria and Belgium have already suspended flights to and from the UK.
The new variant of the virus is believed to have first appeared in the London and Kent areas in September and is reported to be up to 70 per cent more contagious than other strains.
Besides measures to prevent the importation of the new strain of COVID-19, the Minister said the government was worried about the spike in infections in the last days.
As a result, the federal government has directed all restaurants, bars, night clubs and event centres nationwide to be closed, as part of its efforts to curtail the spread of the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal government also urged Nigerians to comply with the advisory being issued by the PTF, including the use of face masks, compliance with social distancing protocols and regular washing of hands with soap and water.
FG Lifts Suspension on Emirates Airlines
By Adedapo Adesanya
The federal government has lifted the ban it placed on Emirates Airlines from flying into Nigeria without conditions.
This was disclosed over the weekend by the Minister of Aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika, in Abuja in a statement signed by Mr James Odaudu, the Director of Public Affairs in the Ministry of Aviation.
Business Post had reported that the federal government barred Emirates from flying into Nigeria over discriminatory policies on Nigerians as regards COVID-19 protocols by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
According to Mr Sirika, the move came in response to the yearnings of Nigerian travellers and after painstaking negotiations with the UAE, the Emirates Airlines home country.
The Minister further said that the UAE had also removed all travel restrictions on Nigerians.
“We have received communication from UAE removing some of the conditions of travel of which we had concerns about. Having done so, we feel we should lift the ban on the suspension of Emirates Airlines.
“All the impediments on Emirates have been lifted and that the airline can now operate in Nigeria,” he said.
Mr Sirika lauded the understanding of Nigerians in spite of the hardships experienced as a result of the spat between the two countries.
Also speaking, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyema, noted that Nigeria recognised that UAE had a responsibility to protect the lives of its citizens.
He added that whatever measures the UAE had taken was for the best interest of her citizens.
He said that the negotiation that led to the renewed relationship was a balanced one and was a win-win for both countries.
Mr Onyema, who reiterated that though Nigeria had always had an excellent relationship with UAE, added that the negotiations had made the relationship even stronger.
On his part, the National Incidence Manager of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Mr Muktar Mohammed, commended the leadership provided by members of the Committee in ensuring resolution of the impasse.
Mr Mohammed also disclosed that the committee was watching closely the developments within the Southern African regions with regards to the discovery of a new variant of the virus.
He added that necessary measures to prevent its entrance into Nigeria would be done.
FAAN Moves to Curb Extortion at Airports With Stiffer Sanctions
By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel
The Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Mr Rabiu Yadudu, has said that the authority will execute stiffer sanctions against violators to curb the issue of extortion by airport officials.
Mr Yadudu disclosed this on Monday, November 8, 2021, in Abuja, after the authority`s management meeting, noting that such a miscreant act is detrimental to the integrity of the nation`s airports and Nigeria’s reliability.
The action also responded to the concerns raised by stakeholders, passengers, and others over extortion at airports from officials and some agencies.
He disclosed that, henceforth, any official caught would lose his or her On Duty Card (ODC), which means such personnel will no longer have the privilege to access the airport terminal.
“And we agreed that once you lose your ODC at the airport, you will not get it back. If it is a company, we will advise them to get a new staff. If it is an agency, we will advise them to get another personnel,” he said.
According to him, the management further agreed to instruct all personnel working in the airport to have their name boldly written on the chest of the uniform in such a way that it can be easily seen.
He said a new number would be disclosed soon where airport users can send messages of reports in any event of extortion or wrong action, providing the name of the violator and other credible information of the situation.
“If you see the name of the person (violator), put his name and the act of violation. We will get back to you through your number.
“The sanction will be permanent. This is just the beginning of our strategy. If anyone loses their job I, think they will not try evil again,” he said.
Mr Yadudu said that the implementation of these measures by the management is immediate as it plans to meet with the airports’ regional managers and the Head of Departments (HODs), after which they will meet with their stakeholders and then the agencies.
Recently, an American vlogger known as Sabbatical described the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos as “extremely corrupt” because some officials were asking him for bribes.
Delta Airlines Resumes Direct Lagos-New York Flights
By Ashemiriogwa Emmanuel
A leading airline in domestic and international travel, Delta Airlines, has disclosed that it would be restoring its direct flight services from Lagos to the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York in December this year.
The Airline’s Commercial Director Africa, the Middle East, and India, Mr Jimmy Eichelgruen, who disclosed this in a statement, added that the resumption of the popular route was timely as the festive season is fast approaching.
According to him, the operation of the flight service between Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport would be nonstop and three times a week which is set to go underway from December 8, 2021.
Business Post understands that this is coming as United Airlines, on the other hand, is also resuming direct flights on the Lagos-Washington route on November 29.
According to Delta Airline’s official, “The flight DL214 would depart MMIA at 11:25 on December 8 and arrive at the New York-JFK Airport at 17:15, while its Flight DL215 would leave New York-JFK at 23:55 and arrive at the MMIA at 16:00 on December 9.”
He added that the re-entry will also connect Lagos to Atlanta daily with connections to 46 cities at Delta’s JFK hub.
“Pre-pandemic, the U.S. was one of the most popular destinations for Nigerians and we don’t see any signs of this slowing down.
“We are proud to be the only airline connecting Nigeria nonstop to two destinations in the United States, offering more choice and award-winning service whether travelling for business or leisure.
“Therefore, Delta has scheduled an Airbus A330-200 aircraft on the JFK route, which features a choice of Delta One, Delta Comfort, and Main Cabin seats,” he stated.
He added that personal seatback entertainment screens, along with on-demand Wi-Fi for purchase with free mobile messaging will be made available to passengers throughout their flight, while passengers on Delta One can pre-order their in-flight meal and enjoy complimentary lounge access before they fly
While this will reconnect with family and friends across the United States, Mr Eichelgruen said that the airline continually develops its layers of protection to ensure a safer travel experience, even amid the face of the pandemic.
To aid this, its integrated digital health credential platform, Delta FlyReady, already makes it possible for most customers travelling to the United States to upload a negative Covid-19 test result prior to travel, and vaccination credentials as well.
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