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COVID-19: 1,739 foreigners airlifted from Lagos airport, more to follow

Details of the number of foreigners being evacuated from Nigeria following the outbreak of the rampaging Coronavirus (COVID-19) is beginning to emerge with the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) saying that the figure is now 1,739.

Regional Manager (South West Airports) of FAAN, Mrs Victoria Shin-Aba, while giving thumbs-up for the evacuation process, said that the figure of 1, 739 foreigners include the 208 American citizens who were being airlifted on Wednesday. Another batch of Americans are slated to be evacuated next week.

She stated also that the number given are only those evacuated through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.

She said Delta airlines on Tuesday evacuated 208 Americans with flight D8956 from the airport in continuation of the ongoing repatriation exercise which commenced about 10 days ago.

Shin-Aba added that the evacuation had been going on smoothly with little or no hitches, adding that FAAN in collaboration with other agencies would continue to carry out its duties with utmost caution and professionalism.

According to statistics confirmed by FAAN, Air France has evacuated 399 French and European nationals; Lufthansa, 238; Middle East Airline (MEA), 140; Ethiopian Airlines, 148; 137 (Canadians); 375 (US); Jed, nine (Liberians and crew); Air Peace, 87 Israelis and Delta with 208 Americans.

Mrs Shin-Aba explained that “since the closure of the airports, we have had about 10 evacuations with different nationals. We have had from Air France-KLM, Lufthansa, Middle East Airline with the Lebanese; Ethiopian Airlines has been on with Americans and Canadians. Then, we have domestic charter too. Also, Jed Air did Liberia, Air Peace airlifted Israelis. We have Delta Airlines on ground that will take about 200 Americans.”

She added that South African Airways and Air France were also expected to carry out evacuation flights in the coming days.

According to her, “so far, the activities have been okay and well-coordinated. Since the closure of the airport, we have had about 10 evacuations with different nationals. We have had from Air France-KLM, Lufthansa, Middle East Airline (MEA) with the Lebanese; Ethiopian Airlines has been on.  The conditions are that you have to get an approval from the Federal Ministry of Aviation. When the ministry gives the approval, it is sent to FAAN, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). Then, we send the approval to all the security agencies, too. Most importantly, there is a procedure in place for the COVID-19 pandemic, which has to be followed.

“For instance, Port Health Service has to check everyone that is going out, at times, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) will be on ground. Even, to access the terminal, there is a checking by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and others. It has been smooth sailing. “Though, we had a cancellation some few days ago, but that was not due to anybody’s fault. It was due to logistics of the flight plan.

Shin-aba also disclosed that the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria is very emphatic on social distancing and has brought its staff up to speed on the subject matter to avoid a situation where essential workers contract the COVID-19 and spread same in the work environment.

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