UK ban throws Nigeria’s air travel into chaos

  • Confusion, passengers in frantic effort to beat Monday deadline
  • Seek alternative routes out of Nigeria
  • Canada rejects COVID-18 certificates from Nigeria, nine other nations

 

 

 

The situation at the country’s major airports of Lagos and Abuja turned chaotic today as a horde of travellers sought alternative arrangements to get out of the country to beat the UK Monday deadline for non-extension of flights to Nigerians over the outbreak of the new COVID-19 variant, OMICRON.

The United Kingdom had on Saturday shocked Nigeria when it added the country to its red list countries and territories while their nationals arriving must quarantine for 10 days in government facilities at a cost to be borne by them.

A statement from the British High Commission, Abuja disclosed that Nigeria would be added to the travel red list from 4 am Monday, December 6, 2021, following 21 cases of Omicron reported in England which are linked to travel from Nigeria.

Other nations on the UK red list are Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Namibia.

According to the High Commission, these are temporary measures that had been introduced to prevent further Omicron cases from entering the UK and would be examined at a review point on December 20, 2021.

The announcement has put a lot of travellers especially visitors into a frenzy as many of them were seen making frantic efforts to beat the deadline for flight proscription to Nigerians by 4 am today before the policy is reviewed by December 20th, 2021.

This could also save them, especially those fully vaccinated cost of having to undergo multiple PCR tests and avoid 10 days quarantine. Currently, people only need to self-isolate until they test negative within two days of arriving.

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Crowded Lagos airport

Many of the passengers who besieged British Airways and Virgin Atlantic’s counters at the Lagos airport wanted to know or get the real interpretation of the UK travel protocol as many of them alluded to ambiguity in the statement and protocols for who they can pick or passengers that should not be picked.

At the airport when Aviation Metric visited, some passengers whose travel dates had been confirmed for this week on Virgin Atlantic Airways were seen discussing exploring the option of travelling to the UK through Accra as the country is not one of the nations in Africa on the UK red list.

But it is not clear if the rule in Ghana on COVID-19 would make the idea sail through as many nations are rejecting the COVID-19 test in a third country.

For instance, Canada warned that passengers travelling to Canada from Botswana, Egypt, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zimbabwe must hold a negative molecular test (PCR test) result obtained from a third country, while COVID-19 test certificates issued in the above countries are not accepted.

President, National Association of Nigerian Travel Agents (NANTA), Mrs Susan Akporiaye said the travel ban was thoughtless, adding that the decision to make British nationals and Irish citizens quarantine in government facilities for ten days at a cost to be borne by them does not make it reasonable, stressing that it would cost nearly £2000  by each traveller.

She also said the idea of shutting out those fully vaccinated from entering the UK makes a mockery of the promotion of vaccines as one of the preventive measures against the spread of COVID-19.

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Virgin Atlantic in a statement said, “We understand the difficulties that the inclusion of Nigeria on the Red list may pose to our customers. Where a Virgin Atlantic customer is unable to travel for any reason, we offer as much choice and flexibility as possible to help you change or amend your plans, set out in our flexible booking policy”.

Effective immediately for travel booked between now and December 20th, 2021, from Lagos with us, customers will be able to change their booking free of charge with no additional charges”.

The airline appealed to passengers to rebook to the same Cabin at the lowest availability, stressing that these can be booked on to dates into next year (i.e. they do not have to physically travel before the 20th).  The carrier further stated that after December 20, 2021, there would be additional charges that would be applicable once again.

Before customers travel,  the carrier urged them to ensure they check the countries’ entry requirements for their destination, hinting that everything they need to know before they head to the airport can be found there including the latest government travel advice and entry requirements.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 has updated travel protocols for passengers as part of its efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

For passengers travelling out of Nigeria, they must perform a COVID-19 PCR test not more than 2days (48hours) before boarding and departure.

PCR tests done more than 48 hours before departure are not valid and persons will not be allowed to board. Rapid antigen or antibody tests are not acceptable; only PCR tests can be used for this purpose. Test validity commences from the time of sample collection.

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For Travelers with multiple connections before arrival in Nigeria, the PCR test must be valid within 48hours of boarding from the first point of departure.

Passengers must bring along an electronic or hard copy of their negative COVID-19 PCR test for presentation at the departure airport and upon arrival in Nigeria. A record of their vaccination status will also be required on arrival in Nigeria.

All intending passengers(including diplomats and children less than 10 years old) must register via an online national travel portal (Nigeria International Travel Portal –https://nitp.ncdc.gov.ng) and proceed to fill in the online Health Declaration/Self-Reporting form located on the portal.

After filling the online Health Declaration/Self-Reporting Form, travellers will be directed to upload their negative tests on the portal. Only children less than 10 years old are exempted from uploading a pre-arrival negative COVID-19 PCR test result.

 

Crowded Lagos airport

Once this is successfully done, travellers will proceed to the payment section of the travel portal. Only Children less than 10

years are exempted from payment for the repeat test in Nigeria.

Only children less than 10 years old are exempted from uploading a pre-arrival negative COVID-19 PCR test for presentation at the airport.

Wole Shadare