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PTF extends ban on local, international flights by four weeks

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Operators fault evacuation of Nigerians with foreign airlines

The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 yesterday extended the ban on local and international flights by four weeks as part of measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Announcing the extension at the daily briefing of the task force following the expiration of the initial closure yesterday in Abuja, the chairman and Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, called on the leaderships of the various transport unions to properly enlighten their members on the dangers inherent in the non-adherence to the COVID-19 containment guidelines.

Against the backdrop that public transportation remains a major clustering area through which the virus could easily be transmitted, he urged the stakeholders to educate their members on the ban imposed on inter-state travels.

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The SGF said the PTF and President Muhammadu Buhari were “deeply worried about reports on the increasing rate of infection of medical doctors and personnel.”

“While we renew our efforts at training these frontline workers about the infectious nature of this virus, we urge that utmost care be taken in managing COVID-related cases,” he added.

The chairman stressed the need for personal discipline, increased awareness and enforcement.

“The PTF calls on community, religious and traditional leaders to take up this challenge. Similarly, we call on trade associations, professional bodies and organisations to compliment the efforts of government,” he appealed.

Besides, the PTF urged Nigerians to also use the period of the pandemic to build social solidarity by eschewing stigmatisation, supporting the mental well being of compatriots as well as providing for the poor, sick, aged and the vulnerable in whatever manner.

However, indigenous operators have faulted the Federal Government’s patronage of foreign airlines for the evacuation of about 4000 Nigerians from abroad.

The operators, under the aegis of Airlines Operators of Nigeria (AON), yesterday said the action undermined the local players, describing it as “disappointing after the pledge to enlist two domestic carriers in the exercise.”

A schedule from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ministry revealed that the first batch of evacuees of 265 from Dubai arrived yesterday, another 300 persons are to arrive from London tomorrow via British Airways while Ethiopian Airline would airlift those coming from United States of America on Monday.

Indeed, the first batch touched ground on Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos. Responding, the Executive Chairman of AON, Captain Nogie Meggison, said his members were shocked and disappointed by the decision to evacuate Nigerians with foreign airlines.

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