In picture above: WHO personnel at port of entry at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos. CREDIT: WHO
To sanction erring inbound passengers; puts 14 countries on watch list
As part of the strategic efforts to mitigate the third wave of COVID-19 in Lagos, the State Government has once again restated its commitment to strictly enforce COVID travel protocols, especially for inbound travellers.
State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, who made this known at a Press Briefing organised by the Ministry of Health to highlight the COVID-19 third wave prevention strategy, noted that Lagos State Government is proactively setting parameters that will guide the management of Inbound Passengers of Interests (POIs) from other countries, especially, countries with rapidly spreading new strains of the COVID-19 virus.
He explained that inbound international travellers and POIs coming from other countries into Lagos are being classified based on their originating countries into three; the Red countries, the Amber countries and the Green countries.
According to him, India, Brazil and Turkey where new variants of COVID originated from and is rapidly increasing, especially in the past seven days, are classified as the Red countries, while the Amber countries which consist of 14 nations are countries that are currently experiencing active community transmission of the new variants, which originated from the Red countries.
The Commissioner added that the Green Countries are countries with no known variants of COVID or records of variants from Red Countries and no clear increase in the number of daily confirmed cases.
While listing the fourteen countries that form the Amber countries to include Canada, U.S.A, France, Germany, Netherlands, Togo, Ghana, Cameroun, Angola, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, Abayomi disclosed that the State government would closely monitor inbound flights from the Red and Amber Countries and set parameters for the management of POIs from those countries.
“Our protocol for the management of inbound passengers from the Red Countries will include; a mandatory PCR test 72 hours before departure, PCR test post-arrival and 14-day isolation in a government-approved facility paid for by the passenger. The POI from the Amber Countries are also required to do PCR test 72 hours before departure, PCR test post-arrival and a mandatory seven days isolation at home which will be monitored by our logistics, surveillance and EkoTELEMED teams”, he said.
Highlighting the framework for isolation of passengers of interests from Red listed countries like India, Turkey and Brazil, the Commissioner explained POIs from these countries are required to pre-register and fill a travel registration form on the Federal Government’s COVID travel portal and pre-book for a PCR test and isolation accommodation.
He added Port Health officials will verify details of POIs from the Red countries on arrival and ensure their transportation from the airport to isolation centres where a PCR test would be conducted to determine their COVID status.
He noted that POIs who tested positive for COVID would be moved to government isolation centres, while those who tested negative after a repeat test would be discharged after seven days of isolation.
His words, “The Federal Government has put very strict guidelines in place for people coming from India, Brazil and Turkey. These passengers coming in are to be mandatorily isolated at any of the accredited State isolation facilities at their own expense. They are to perform a COVID PCR test within 24 hours and continue isolation for seven days after which a second PCR test will be performed. If you are negative on the seventh day then you will be permitted to leave the State accredited isolation facility.
“For passengers returning from other counties, we are more relaxed, however, there are still restrictions, all of them still have to comply with the seven-day isolation but they can isolate at home where we will be monitoring them and ensure that they observe the mandatory seven-day isolation before they leave their home environment”, Abayomi stated.
The Commissioner noted that the Governor has recently passed into law the Lagos State Coronavirus Pandemic law, 2021, which gives the Governor the right to order a quarantine and allow for sanction for anyone who flouts the law.
Abayomi pointed out that there will be severe sanctions for inbound travellers and POIs who flout the protocol or the State COVID pandemic law, stressing that providing false or deliberately misleading information when filling out the online form is an offence punishable by imprisonment or heavy fines or both.
He said, “According to section 11 of the new gazette of the Lagos State Coronavirus Pandemic law, 2021, the Governor has the right to order for a quarantine of a person or group of persons to be quarantined until it is safe for such quarantine order to be lifted in Lagos State. According to section 17 of the same law, if passengers break the quarantine rules, they may face a penalty of up to N300,000 and/or one-year imprisonment”.
While noting that general laxity, false sense of security and non-adherence to COVID guidelines, COVID fatigue and entry of mutations and guidelines are the possible triggers of the third wave infection, Abayomi averred that enforcement of non-pharmaceutical interventions of facemask use, physical distancing, hand hygiene, avoiding mass gatherings, PCR testing and isolation if positive, is key to mitigating COVID third wave.
“We will deploy effective messaging and education via our various platforms, while we enforce all guidelines through the respective State agencies”, the Commissioner stated.