Passengers must first test negative for the coronavirus disease before they can return.
Around 1,000 Nigerians who have been stranded abroad since the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) forced world economies to shut down are set to return home this week.
Nigeria had suspended the evacuation of its citizens from around the world in late May 2020 due to processing problems after hundreds of people arrived via international flights.
However, the chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, announced during a media briefing on Monday, June 15 that evacuation activity has resumed.
Mustapha, also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said a combined 371 people returned from India and Egypt over the past weekend.
The SGF said all the evacuees tested negative before boarding the plane, and will be retested within 72 hours of arrival in Nigeria.
During his briefing, the national coordinator of the PTF, Sani Aliyu, said the government has started the process of bringing in 1,000 more people this week.
He said 500 people will be received in Lagos, and another 500 will be received in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
Aliyu said the key criteria for coming into the country is the need for passengers to conduct a PCR test for COVID-19, and test negative for the disease. He said the PCR test must also be valid within a two-week period.
He noted that eight people who wanted to return home last week tested positive for COVID-19 and had to be prevented from boarding.
“We’re aware of the difficulty of obtaining the test in certain countries and we’ll be looking at this in further detail, but we can already see some of the advantages of having this pre-boarding test,” he said.
The initial evacuation process faced challenges, most notably the government’s inability to properly foot the bill for the accommodation and feeding of the evacuees while they observed their 14-day hotel isolation upon arrival in the country.
However, without going into detail, Aliya said on Monday that a new mechanism has been put in place.
“We’re happy to state that the mechanism that the Dangote Foundation and others have put together to obviate the need for evacuees to check into hotels for 14 days is now fully implemented and moving ahead well,” he said.
With over 4,000 Nigerians previously announced to be willing to return to the country, Aliyu said the new process will allow the government evacuate more people at an improved pace.
He appealed to evacuees to cooperate with safety guidelines on self-isolation for 14 days regardless of a negative pre-boarding test.
Nigeria has recorded 16,085 cases in 35 states and the FCT, as of June 14.
While 5,220 people have recovered, 420 people have died.