Coronavirus: Nigeria Government Facing difficulties in tracing Italian co-passengers


The Federal Government on Monday has vowed to deal with any foreign airline that has violated coronavirus screening procedures for passengers arriving in the country.

The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika,  was said to have given the warning in Abuja at the inter-ministerial meeting on coronavirus.

A source at the meeting stated that the minister said airlines that failed to distribute contact tracing forms to their passengers upon arrival at any of the international airports in the country would be sanctioned.

The minister stated this just as there were indications on Monday that the government was facing obstacles in tracing some of the people, who had contacts with the first coronavirus index case.

The  Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire,  while briefing journalists in Abuja, said some passengers, who were on the same Turkish Airlines flight with the first index case, an Italian businessman, gave telephone numbers that were not working.

The Italian is currently in the isolation centre at the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba, Lagos. Also, no fewer than 100 persons, who had contacts with him, have been identified by the Lagos and Ogun state governments.

Providing further explanations on what Sirika said at an earlier meeting on Monday, the Director, Public Affairs and Communications, Federal Ministry of Aviation, James Odaudu, in an interview with one of our correspondents,  stated that the government would not take it lightly with any airline that did not give screening forms to its passengers.

He said, “Of course, there are sanctions that airlines will face if they fail to distribute those forms. These are forms that are meant to help control the spread of coronavirus in Nigeria and so if an airline fails to share the forms, that will amount to sabotage.

“Any airline that refuses to do that is sabotaging the government’s efforts at safeguarding the people. So it will be considered a big offence and severe sanctions will apply. But the specific sanctions, I don’t know at the moment.”

Explaining efforts to trace those who had contacts with the index case,  the  Minister of Health,  Ehanire, said, “The airline that brought the index patient has been notified and has been advised to put the crew that came with the flight on observation.”

The minister stated, “There have been a few challenges in that some people gave telephone numbers that did not work or numbers that are said to be switched off.

“There are some of them who probably did not have telephone, like new arrivals in Nigeria that have not yet registered on any phone companies in Nigeria. But there are ways in which they can be found out.

“Some have probably left Nigeria and a day or two, but the manifest is a document to start with. The owner of the aircraft has been notified and the embassy of the index case has been notified. The World Health Organisation has been notified.”

He said there was no new coronavirus case in the country apart from the Italian being treated in Lagos.

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