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US, Canada top list of foreign nations evacuating citizens from Nigeria

Foreign nations have intensified the evacuation of their citizens living in Nigeria with the United States Mission in Abuja setting a deadline of Wednesday, 8th April, 2020 for all interested citizens intending to take advantage of the evacuation flights to register.

Saying that it is concluding arrangements to return their citizens in Nigeria back to safety, the US also told all potential evacuees in a statement issued in Abuja Monday that hospitals in their home country of the U.S. were overwhelmed.

But the US statement noted that “priority on repatriation flights is given to the elderly, individuals with serious health issues, unaccompanied minors, pregnant women, and physically challenged citizens,”.

Already, American and Canadian governments had by Monday evacuated a total 575 of their citizens in order to help them escape their projected outbreak of major Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Nigeria.

The evacuees were conveyed in an Ethiopian airline, via the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International airport, Abuja.

Also evacuated by Ethiopian Airlines, according to the website information   were 200 Canadians from Lagos and Abuja to Addis Ababa en-route Toronto with a Boeing 767. Some of the passengers were airlifted from Lagos while others joined the flight from Abuja.

An Air France flight had penultimate Thursday moved 260 Europeans from Nigeria to France.  The Nigerian Government also permission to Air France and KLM to evacuate Europeans. Also, last week Thursday, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms. Catriona Laing CB, said the mission was exploring available options to send staff and their families back to the United Kingdom.

In the other series of evacuations by different countries, a Middle East Airlines flight had on Sunday evacuated 140 Lebanese from Nigeria through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. Last week, Israel evacuated 274 of its citizens from the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja to Tel-Aviv.

The evacuations are a vote of no confidence in Nigeria’s health care, data and follow up operations as the diplomatic community expects that COVID-19 infections could rise to more than 10,000 in the coming weeks.

Western diplomats, worried that with the current and “abysmal way the Nigerian Government was handling the Coronavirus outbreak, the number of infections could witness a significant rise in the coming weeks,” started evacuating their nationals from Nigeria and other African countries. 

They insist that there are at least 5,000 persons who had already come in contact with infected persons in Nigeria already. 

They reason that this category of persons may had gone ahead to mingle with thousands of others in the society without realising that they had the virus.

Part of the statement by the US Mission in Abuja reads: “The U.S. Embassy in Abuja is in the process of contacting persons who have registered their interest in being placed on an evacuation flight. The flight is estimated to travel later this week, but we do not have exact information at this time.  After this flight, there are no other flights currently scheduled.

“Due to the unprecedented nature of this situation and the worldwide effort to ensure all American Citizens have a chance to return to the United States, U.S. Embassy Abuja is not aware of when Washington, DC would be in a position to charter another aircraft.

“U.S. Embassy Abuja urges all persons who are considering evacuation to take advantage of this opportunity. If you have not yet registered your interest in repatriation flights but are interested in this week’s flight, you must register your interest no later than 9:00 am on Wednesday, April 8.”

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