NIGERIAN government officials have suspended all Emirates Airlines’ outbound flights for 72 hours following a flagrant breach of the guidelines laid down by the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 regarding travel.
Although Nigeria has so far been spared the worst of the global pandemic, the second phase of the pandemic is considered particularly severe as it comes with the virus mutating into several dangerous strains. As a result, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Covid-19 Health Protection Regulations 2021 into law last week.
Signed into law on January 27, the new federal guidelines state that a physical distance of at least two metres shall be maintained at all times between persons at all gatherings. They also insist that no gathering of more than 50 persons shall hold in an enclosed space, except for religious purposes, in which case the gathering shall not exceed 50% capacity of the space.
With regards to travel, Nigerian law does not approve of rapid antigen tests done at laboratories but Emirates Airlines has been using them to airlift passengers. As a result of this flagrant breach, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) issued a circular on February 4, suspending all Emirates Airlines operations.
Its circular read, “Based on the foregoing and to enable the Nigerian government to put in place the needed infrastructure and logistics for Covid-19 rapid diagnostic test (RDT) testing for departing passengers, the Presidential Task Force (PTF) has directed that Emirates Airlines should either accept passengers without RDT pending when the infrastructure and logistics are put in place or suspend its flights to and from Nigeria until such a time when the required infrastructure and logistics are fully established and implemented. Emirates Airlines has not been in compliance with the two options given by the PTF as records obtained from Nigerian Airspace Management Agency indicates that Emirates Airlines operated the flights from both Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.”