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Why govt shouldn’t ban UK, S’African flights, by stakeholders

By Wole Oyebade
25 December 2020   |   4:17 am
Aviation stakeholders have urged the Federal Government and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to be cautious in banning flights from the United Kingdom and South Africa...

(Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP)

Aviation stakeholders have urged the Federal Government and the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to be cautious in banning flights from the United Kingdom and South Africa as part of measures to shield Nigeria from the new strain of the deadly coronavirus.

The aviators, yesterday, said besides a knee jerk reaction of imposing another ban, government should rather step up preventive measures, with priority for on-arrival COVID-19 rapid tests for passengers.

While several countries have placed embargo on UK travellers, visitors from South Africa have also been banned by the British government.

People who have been in or transited through South Africa in the last 10 days are no longer allowed into the UK beginning from yesterday. The new rule does not apply to British and Irish nationals – but they would have to self-isolate.

Nigeria has standing ties with the two countries. While British Airways and Virgin Atlantic operate daily flights in and out of the most populous black nation, Nigerian carrier, Air Peace, only operates twice-weekly flights on the Lagos-Johannesburg-Lagos route.

The two channels have become a source of worry for Nigerians, with the PTF already considering selected flight ban.

Aviation security consultant, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), regretted that Nigeria had been on this path since outbreak of the pandemic.

Travel expert, Sunday Olumegbon, reckoned that there were more avenues to prevent further spread of the virus, than embargoing international flights.

He said apart from the revenue that foreign airlines bring into the country, the Nigerian government should intensify awareness and do more screening at entry ports.
Olumegbon stressed that the situation in the UK had again reinforced the need for coordinated testing of travellers.

European nations have begun imposition of travel bans on the UK after it reported a more infectious and “out of control” COVID-19 variant.

Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium are all halting flights. The measures vary and are initially short-term, but the French rules also affect channel freight.