Just a Matter of Cash…Weak enforcement of COVID-19 testing in Lagos airport aiding spread of virus

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Just a Matter of Cash…Weak enforcement of COVID-19 testing in Lagos airport aiding spread of virus

Just a Matter of Cash…Weak enforcement of COVID-19 testing in Lagos airport aiding spread of virus
July 16
22:28 2021

• How health workers, immigration officials allow passengers from Turkey, other countries to evade preventive isolation

Sometimes, virtual crimes lie dormant, and transgressions are stored away in a criminal’s head, like an opera, only to await the crafty influence of luck to inspire their opening bars. Crime, like virtue, has its degrees. However, cash disperses the threshold between the petty criminal and the heavy hitter. Both are masterminds, all the same, merchants of grief and variant evil.

It doesn’t matter what the vice is, or the likely magnitude of its consequences, Nigerians would do anything, for a crisp or dirty wad of cash. They forget that no one had ever mended his fortunes, nor helped a just cause, by endangering lives and breaking the law – especially when their hustle, or fortune-hunting if you like, gravitates towards mass murder.

As the coronavirus ravages across the world, in its third wave, with the new delta variant, nations across the world have initiated measures to combat the scourge and prevent its spread through their entry points, but those who should be the gatekeepers in Nigeria, like health workers and immigration officials, are functioning as the enemies of the state. Instead of enforcing stipulated protocol to the letter, they have devised ways to circumvent the process and sabotage the government efforts while lining their own pockets. At the international airport in Lagos, it is business as usual with the officials making a ‘killing’ every day from passengers desperate to avoid isolation.

For instance, a returnee from Turkey who had opted to stay at the Radisson Hotel, GRA, Ikeja, was required to pay N1.4million for the seven days of isolation at the hotel. However, some of the government officials told him point-blank that with just $300 (about N140, 000), he could be set free. He took this option, expectedly.

As the world continues to battle the coronavirus, the pandemic is not abating, just as the nations keep reinventing and re-strategising several measures at curtailing its spread. The Nigerian government is no less proactive. At the emergence of the virus’ new delta variant, the Presidential task Force on COVID-19 had taken pragmatic steps to combat the pandemic while Lagos State, Nigeria’s most populous state and the epicentre of the scourge, re-instituted a 12 am to 4 am curfew.

To prevent the spread of the virus by international passengers, the ‘provisional quarantine protocol for travellers arriving Nigeria’, dated June 30, 2021, prohibits travellers from the quartet of Brazil, Turkey, India and South Africa. Also, contrary to airlines and some countries’ advocacy for vaccination and antigen test as entry requirements, the Federal Government has stuck to mandatory Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, quarantine and self-isolation for all arriving passengers. While evaders of any of these conditions shall be prosecuted, defaulting airlines are liable to fines in excess of $3,500 per illegal entrant or default.

All passengers arriving in Nigeria are required to go through the routine Port Health screening and present electronic or print-out evidence of pre-boarding COVID-19 PCR test and the Permit to Travel Certificate/QR Code; present their international passports for clearance through the Nigerian Immigration Service System’s Migrants Identification Data Analysis System (MIDAS), and proceed on mandatory seven days self-isolation/quarantine in their selected in-country destination. That is where the problem is in Nigeria.

The local protocol, signed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, stated that non-Nigerian passport holders and non-residents, who visited Brazil, India, Turkey or South Africa within 14 days preceding travel to Nigeria, shall be denied entry into Nigeria.

“Nigerians and those with permanent resident permits, who visited Brazil, India, Turkey and South Africa within 14 days preceding travel to Nigeria shall be made to undergo seven days of mandatory quarantine in a government-approved facility at the point-of-entry city and a cost to the passenger.

“The following conditions shall apply to such passengers: within 24 hours of arrival shall take a COVID-19 PCR test; if positive, the passenger shall be admitted within a government-approved treatment centre, in line with national treatment protocols; and if Negative, the passenger shall continue to remain in quarantine and made to undergo a repeat PCR test on day seven of their quarantine.

“Passengers who provided false or misleading contact information will be liable to prosecution; and persons who willfully disregard or refuse to comply with directions of Port-Health staff, security agencies or evade quarantine shall be prosecuted in accordance with the law,” the advisory stated in part.

As things stand, for their immediate freedom and to save money, many international passengers are entering the country illegally and mixing freely with families and friends and other hapless citizens, thanks to the connivance of immigration officials and health workers who should know better.

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