By John Ikani
A new international travel guideline has been issued by the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, removing mandatory Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing for fully vaccinated visitors and stiff penalties for unvaccinated travelers violating the new rules.
According to the ‘Provisional Travel Protocol for Travelers Arriving Nigeria’, issued on Sunday morning by the Chairman of the PSC and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, the new guideline, which takes effect from Monday, April 4, 2022, also prescribes sanctions for airlines that bring violators of the new rules.
Mustapha said that the new guideline prescribed for the fully vaccinated would apply to travelers between ages 10 and 18 years.
He said that unvaccinated or partially-vaccinated international travelers would still be required to take the PCR test 48 hours before boarding a flight to Nigeria.
“This protocol is a revision of the Travel Protocol released on 29th November 2021 Interim Travel Guidelines for Passengers arriving in Nigeria.
“In-bound passengers to Nigeria, who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, are no longer required to carry out COVID-19 PCR test before boarding Nigeria-bound flights.
“Fully vaccinated passengers arriving Nigeria will not also be required to carry out Post arrival PCR test or a Rapid Antigen Test upon arrival in Nigeria.
“Children below the age of 18 years will be accorded the same privileges as persons who are fully vaccinated.
“In-bound Passengers who are unvaccinated or partially-vaccinated for COVID-19 shall take a COVID-19 PCR test 48 hours before departure and undergo Days 2 and 7 post-arrival PCR tests at their own cost.
“All in-bound passengers MUST register via the online Nigeria International Travel Portal (NITP– https://nitp.ncdc.gov.ng),” it said.
Meanwhile, for outbound travelers, the guideline prescribes that “all passengers travelling out of Nigeria are:
“Encouraged to have evidence of full vaccination against COVID-19;
“Comply with the COVID-19 guidelines of their destination or transit countries; and
“Familiarise themselves with the COVID-19 travel requirements of their destination and transit countries before embarking on the journey,” it said.
Addressing the issue of airlines boarding violators of the guideline, it said, among other sanctions, such airlines would be fined US$3,500 for each violator and could be banned from flying into Nigeria.
“Airlines that board travelers without the appropriate required documents; Vaccine certificate, a negative COVID-19 PCR test done not more than 48 hours prior to boarding, and a Paid Permit to Travel/QR code (as may be applicable to the passenger, shall be sanctioned as follows:
“Travelers, who are non-Nigerians, will be refused entry into Nigeria and returned to the point of embarkation at the cost to the airline;
“Travelers who are Nigerians or holders of a permanent residence permit will be allowed entry but subjected to the procedure outlined in Section D of the guideline.
“In addition, travelers arriving with forged (fake) vaccine certificates or COVID-19 PCR results shall be prosecuted and required to carry out PCR tests on arrival, on days 2 and 7.
“Airlines shall be fined US$ 3,500 per traveler for failure to comply with any of the pre-boarding requirements.
“Airlines who consistently fail to comply with the requirements may be banned from coming to Nigeria; and at the time of boarding, travelers will be required to undergo temperature screening and asked about COVID-19 symptoms.
“Travelers with temperature 38°C and other COVID-19-related signs and symptoms shall not be allowed to board the flight,” the document read.