Passengers travelling abroad through Nigeria’s airport terminals are required to arrive five hours before departure to undergo COVID-19 protocols, the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has said.
The minister said this on Saturday at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Ikeja, when announcing some of the measures introduced for the reopening of the country’s airports closed in March following outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
Sirika, who led other members of Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to inspect facilities put in place at the airport ahead of its reopening, said domestic travellers on their part would need to arrive three hours before departure for processing.
According to him, this is in a bid to reduce sources of contamination of the virus.
Sirika said that physical distancing had been established at various points of the airport, adding that this is done by marking the floors at the airports.
He said that physical distancing would now be required to be maintained right from the point of getting down from the vehicle that conveyed one to the airport.
“We will provide polythene bags where passengers put all their things for protocol and we will ensure there is a minimal contact by the person screening you,’’ Sirika said.
The minister said that the number of seats at the departure lounge of the MMIA had been reduced to 50 from 500 in order to maintain social distancing.
He further said that passengers must comply strictly to the wearing of face masks before entering the airports while aviation authorities would ensure provision of alcohol based sanitiser at the airports.
The minister added that toilets at the airports were also COVID-19 compliant, stressing that everything is being done to minimise physical contact.
Sirika said that the pilots, engineers, traffic controllers and catering staff, among others, at the airports were now certified and licensed to carry out certain activities only when they have the valid clearance.
He said that the aircraft must be airworthy with full compliance to COVID-19 protocols, adding that the airports are set to be reopened.
He said that there would be palliatives for operators of airlines because they had lost a lot.
Dr Sani Aliyu, the PTF Coordinator, expressed satisfaction over full compliance with COVID-19 protocols at the airport.
He said it showed that the airport was ready for reopening with strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols.
Also speaking, the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said members of PTF were at the Murtala International Airport to inform Nigerians on the new protocols and processes guiding the reopening of airports.
Other members of the PTF who were in Lagos to observe adherence to COVID-19 protocols were Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunibe Mamora and Minister of State for Education, Mr Emeka Uwajiuba.
Sirika also urged intending air passengers to strictly observe the ‘new normal’ laws being introduced in all the airports.
“Every activity we are undertaking here is to ensure that people observe physical distancing, wear face masks or shade, wash hands with soap and water, apply hand sanitiser and maintain environment.
“Government will ensure passengers participate in disinfecting the area for the sake of hygiene,” the minister said.
The minister said that passengers would be enlightened to adopt the “new normal” laws on time.
“It is advisable that we will announce when we are going to open the protocols; you need to be at the airport for local flight at least three hours before the flight.
“We have demonstrated here in a mock manner; we have demonstrated here a sick person, the health workers attending to him.
“God forbid, but if someone falls sick, we are very ready to attend to him. All of these is just to keep safe and this is the `new normal,” he said.
According to Sirika, under the new normal, passengers served tea or beverages will need to pick the tea that will be in a disposable material by themselves, to avoid contaminating others.
“The essence is to ensure smooth operation of our airports and this is to demonstrate that everything is alright and we are ready to start,” the minister added.
On seating arrangement, he said the new idea was to make cabin economically alright and avoid infection.
According to Sirika, the government will ensure the new laws are implemented in such a way that flights are comfortable according to World Health Oganisation (WHO) and International Civil Aviation Oganisation (ICAO) standards.
“WHO and ICAO developed the sitting protocols; we will ensure that those protocols are observed and implemented safely for aviation to remain an economically viable venture,” the minister said.
Aero B737 aircraft, with Registration Number NG110, which departed by 11.25 a.m., carried 51 passengers of the Presidential Task Force team from Abuja to Lagos.
The Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) started the simulation exercise at 8 a.m. during which there were 1.5m physical distance markings, two hand wash areas and bags disinfecting area.
Hand sanitisers were placed at strategic locations and Port Health workers were seen taking the temperature levels of intending passengers.