The Federal Government has evacuated 317 Nigerians stranded in the United Kingdom.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who disclosed this on his Twitter handle @GeoffreyOnyeama, saying the 317 passengers would be brought back aboard Air Peace Airline. Onyeama said in line with the guidelines on COVID-19, the evacuees would be quarantined once they arrive in the country.
“@flyairpeace evacuation flight APK 7801 from Heathrow Airport London just departed with 317 passengers, including nine infants after several hours delay due to operational reasons. The combined flight to Abuja and Lagos will first land at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja to disembark 175 passengers before proceeding to Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos with the remaining 142. All evacuees will proceed on the mandatory 14 days self-isolation stipulated by @NCDCgov and @Fmohnigeria on arrival,” Onyeama said.
The Federal Government has so far evacuated Nigerians stranded in the United States, China, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, India, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and South Africa.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has said the palliatives to be announced for the aviation industry next week would not be in cash.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) had called for aviation-specific financial relief measures from the Nigerian government to address the severe impact of COVID-19 crisis on the air transport sector.
The government had in May said the sector had been losing about N21billion monthly since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.
Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, made the disclosure weekend when he spoke to the media after the airport simulation exercise in Lagos ahead of the resumption of activities in the aviation sector.
He said the Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) would make the announcement, adding that the sector had been captured in the economic stimulus plan of government.
Sirika explained that all stakeholders from airlines, food vendors, ground handlers, car hire and others would be beneficiaries of the government assistance which may not necessarily be cash, but something to cushion the impact of the pandemic on their businesses.
In the area of aircraft safety, the minister said all technical issues have been carefully handled from the aircraft to pilots, engineers, crew, air traffic controllers to ensure they are compliant in the area of proficiency and airworthiness to ensure flight safety.
Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, warned that government was going to be more strict in enforcing the safety protocols as the aviation industry is opened for operation.
“So the issue of compliance is very critical, but where people fail to comply, the government has a duty of enforcement,” he said.
Coordinator of the PTF on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu, said he was satisfied with the level of preparation by the operators, stakeholders and regulators of the aviation sector, especially on the preparedness for air travel restart.
He, however, implored passengers to do their own part of the bargain any time the airports are open for flight, by voluntarily complying with all safety protocols the aerodrome managers had provided.
The government had on March 23 shut all international airports in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.