Coronavirus: Need to further protect Nigerian airports

AS the deadly Coronavirus which broke out in far away Wuhan, China, continues to ravage the Asian continent, killing over 100 with about 1000 people infected, in China alone, as of Tuesday, time has come for the Federal Government of Nigeria to give more attention to inbound flights activities at the airports.

Since the outbreak of the disease which has spread to over fifteen countries across the world, governments of many countries have left no stone unturned to guard against the importation of the disease into their domains.

Among the fifteen countries the deadly disease has spread to are China, United States, France, Japan, Canada, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Hong Kong and Vietnam. It’s possible that the list may have increased by the time this piece comes out.

As other countries have since taken actions to prevent the disease from further spreading, Nigeria is not left out of the prompt actions, as the Federal Government, through its agencies of the ministry of health and the aviation agencies, particularly the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), have rolled out some preventive measures.

While commending the government agencies, even though the Coronavirus is yet to spread to the continent, the probability of it getting to the continent is very high because the world has become a global village since the invention of aircraft which is the fastest mode of traveling across the world. Besides, Nigerians have been adjudged the most widely travelled who do so for many reasons such as pleasures and business.

FAAN in particular, the organisation responsible for managing and protecting the government’s twenty two airports across the country, has since stepped up its ante by first rolling out a travel advisory meant to protect passengers from the epidemic and to prevent the spread of such communicable diseases to Nigeria.

Even the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the aviation regulatory body in Nigeria, has been working round the clock to ensure Nigeria is not caught napping as it happened when the late Liberian/American-born diplomat imported the deadly Ebola virus into Nigeria six years back.

Apart from the travel advisory issued by FAAN, all the equipment and personnel used in combatting the deadly Ebola virus in 2014 has been put to work again with thermal scanners that monitor temperature of passengers, capture the pictures to identify those with high temperature for observation installed at the airports.

While acknowledging FAAN for this, further efforts should be made to complement the strategies already put on the ground for the fact that the affected countries in the outbreak of the disease are the countries mostly frequented by Nigerians, which makes Nigeria very vulnerable.

Therefore, apart from the efforts on the ground there is the need to prevail on airlines, especially the foreign carriers to cooperate with the aviation authorities by reporting suspicious passengers to them on landing in Nigeria.

Equally, there is the need to medically equip the airport workers, particularly those who are the first to come in contact with the inbound passengers in view of the experience recorded during the Ebola virus saga.

At this point in time, the Federal Government needs to support the aviation authorities in ensuring no loophole is created for passengers carrying the Coronavirus to import it into Nigeria through any of its airports.

Though attention should be given to other means of transport like the sea and land too, but aviation is more critical because of its peculiarity due to the number of foreigners and Nigerian travellers flying into and out of the country.

All hands must be on deck while focus must be on all inbound flights and the passengers. This is really a delicate period for aviation across the world.

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