The Presidential Tasks Force (PTF) on COVID-19 says it will continue to ensure that the country’s responses to the pandemic are based on sound science and data.
The PTF Coordinator, Dr Sani Aliyu, while speaking at the daily briefing on COVID-19 on Monday in Abuja said that the PTF would also borrow from the experiences of other countries globally, since the world was a global village.
“So this is why we have established an online registration portal as part of our risk mitigation measures, following the publication of our travel guidelines for travellers coming to Nigeria and in order to make that experience as smooth as possible for the passenger.
“The portal itself is a tool that ensures travellers coming to Nigeria register on the platform and complete all the necessary steps required to comply with the travel guidelines that we issued on the 5th of September, this year.
“So what are those steps?
“This specifically applies to passengers outside Nigeria, not those who live in Nigeria. If you’re outside Nigeria, the first step you need to do when you are coming into the country is to go and have a COVID-19 test done,” he explained
Aliyu said that the test had to be a Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
“We do not accept antigen-antibody serological tests. It needs to be done from a certified laboratory in the country you are in and we already have a list of accredited labs from countries that we initially had issues with their results.
“The test needs to be valid for no more than 96 hours, preferably the closer it is to the time of boarding, the better.
“Passengers without a valid PCR test or those with the result older than 96 hours will not be allowed to board the flight. Once you have your COVID-19 PCR result and it’s negative, you go onto the photo, which is at nitp.ncdc.gov.ng and you register on the portal,” he said.
The coordinator noted that when people registered, they would fill the pre-boarding health declaration form, this was the same form that people used to fill manually in flights or on arrival in Nigeria.
“After you fill the form, you will be asked to upload your COVID-19 PCR result that’s negative. If you upload a positive COVID-19 PCR result, you will still not be allowed to board; it has to be a negative result.
“Once you upload your result, you will then go ahead to fill in where you are arriving to, whether it’s Abuja or Lagos.
“We are making subsequent adjustments to the portal to enable us find out exactly where you’ll be on day seven after arrival, whether you will be in Maiduguri, Port Harcourt or Calabar, so that you can choose a sample collection center within the city that you’ll be residing in on day seven.
“For the moment, we have laboratories across Abuja and Lagos only but we’ve made arrangements with these laboratories to make sure that when you pay, wherever you are in the country, they will arrange for a sample to be collected from you, but we are really encouraging private laboratories outside Abuja and Lagos to work with state governments, in order to get onto the platform and provide improved access to testing for travellers,” he explained.
He, however, said that If a person encountered issues with payment, this was a card payment, if they have international card, it would be easier for them to choose the dollar option rather than the Naira option, and there would also be a button for PayPal, for those that were unable to use the normal Nigerian banks for paying.
“If you encounter issues with payment, you may still pay at the airport when you arrive, however, just to make it clear, it is much faster for you when you arrive Nigeria if you have already done all these three steps and you have paid, it’s a very smooth process. If you haven’t and you have to pay at the airport, then you should be ready to experience significant delays in the process of clearing.
“Once you arrive Nigeria, you will have a barcode or a QR code that you’ll present at the airport. They will be able to download your information, confirm whether or not things have changed since the last time you completed your health declaration form and ask you to proceed to immigration for clearance.
“Since starting this process, I am pleased to inform you that travellers arriving in Nigeria have been using the international travel portal and we’ve actually collected data on how the portal has been used so far,” he stated.
Aliyu disclosed that so far, 9409 travellers have registered, where 5,541 persons have made payments through the portal.
“Based on technical analysis, It appears 5 per cent faced technical difficulties with payment, about a third of travelers did not register with the portal, we do not know whether these travelers subsequently paid on arrival or we’re able to get to a bank to pay for it.
“And just to make it clear, it’s mandatory that you have the PCR test done on day seven. So if you arrive in the country and for whatever reason you do not have a card that works on the system and you’re unable to pay at the airport, you will still have to make arrangements to pay before day seven of your test.
“If you do not have a test by day 14, regardless of whether you have paid or not, we have a system for identifying persons with Nigerian passports and restrictions will be placed on these passports for a six-month period,” he said.
Aliyu stressed that for those that were non-Nigerians that have not had the PCR test done between day-seven to day-14 on their way out of the country, their visas would be revoked.
He, however, said that there were clear implications for not following the travel protocol and this was done in the best interest of the public health of the country.
Aliyu noted that the PTF remained committed to transparency and good governance.
“None of the funds being paid to the laboratories are going to either the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) or to the PTF.
“A small fraction of that will be going to the state governments where these labs operate for the purpose of administration, logistics and data management and the rest goes to the laboratories,” he disclosed.
The coordinator urged laboratories outside Abuja and Lagos to please key into this because the more laboratories the country has in operation, the easier it would be to drive down costs and improve competition.
“It’s not a procurement process, so you can have as much as a hundred laboratories in Lagos and Abuja providing this service.
“The three key requirements, you have to be licensed by the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria, you have to have NCDC validation and optimisation in order to function as a molecular laboratory, and then thirdly, you must be accredited by the state government that you are operating in because your test results will feed into the state numbers,” he urged.
Aliyu said that the PTF worked day and night with partners, like CACOVID, to ensure that the travel platform operated smoothly.
“We know that there are still some issues with the platform that we are resolving but overall at the moment, it appears to be working well for the vast majority.
“When we started using the platform in the first few days, 90 per cent of all travellers were able to use the platform without any issues.
“Nevertheless, we do not want to place undue restrictions on Nigerians coming into the country that genuinely cannot use the platform, which is why we put on hold the requirement for having a QR code or barcode when you are arriving in the country.
“But, we are working toward making sure that a QR code can still be generated where you have not finished payment, provided as evidence that you have attempted paying so that at least we will have your health questionnaire and you will have your COVID-19 PCR negative result electronically available for us to be able to review and go back to, if there’s an issue.