Coronavirus: Nigerian airlines urge govt to restrict entry for travellers, push for economic palliatives

Airline Operators of Nigeria has called on the Nigerian government to restrict entry for travellers from countries with over 100 cases of coronavirus.

The operators also urged the government to provide carriers with economic palliatives to cushion the effect of the scourge.

According to them, the government must take urgent steps by immediately announcing a comprehensive travel restriction to only two entry points for Nigerian travellers coming into the country and nationals of countries that have been confirmed to have over 100 cases of the virus popularly known as COVID-19.

The call came on the heels of a strategic response meeting of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Nigeria’s representative to International Civil Aviation Organisation, members of Port Health and chief executives of airlines and helicopter operators, to develop and implement measures to prevent the influx of the virus into the country as well as curb its spread.

Chairman of AON, Nogie Meggison, said, “Nigeria is about the only country in Africa yet to take decisive action in putting in place strict measures to stop the inflow of the virus into its shores. We can say for sure that if the situation escalates in Nigeria, other countries of the world would not hesitate to stop us from flying into their country. We would like to appeal to government to stand tall by putting Nigeria first at this time and take an immediate action by restricting travel into Nigeria.

“May I propose that government should immediately reduce entry points into the country to Lagos and Abuja airports only. This will allow for effective deployment of critical medical support staff and utilisation of thermal scanners and other resources, as well as promote proper monitoring of those entering the country through our airports by members of the Port Health that are already over-stretched.”

He cited countries in Africa that had taken action, including Kenya, Rwanda, Egypt, South Africa, Ghana, Guinea, Angola, Morocco, Chad and Tanzania.

Calling for immediate action to reduce the number of entry points into the country to effectively control the influx of people into the country, he said that AON members were willing to offer their services to distribute travellers around the country from the two entry points.

The AON chairman further called on the Ministry of Aviation to take a cue from the Central Bank of Nigeria by directing the various agencies under its supervision to immediately put in place and extend critical palliative measures to Nigerian airline operators, to reduce the losses they had suffered and continue to suffer from the impact of the virus on air travel.

“On March 16, 2020, the CBN issued a statement acknowledging the adverse impact of the virus on the global and Nigerian economies and announced a moratorium of one year on all principal repayments of intervention loans effective March 1, 2020; reduced interest rates from nine to five per cent per annum for one year; and created a N50 billion targeted credit facility to cushion the impact of the virus on businesses.

“Similarly, therefore, we use this medium to call on the aviation agencies through the Federal Ministry of Aviation to follow the same path by taking action to support domestic airlines that are the drivers of our national economy,” he declared.

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