The federal government, yesterday, slammed a six-month travel ban on 100 passengers, who failed to comply with the standard airport protocol, which mandates incoming passengers to subject themselves to post arrival Covid-19 PCR test, seven days after arriving in the country.
However, to underscore its seriousness about the travel ban, the federal government has immediately published the passport numbers of the defaulting passengers in an advertorial signed yesterday by the Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, Mr. Boss Mustapha.
This is as the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos Archdiocese, Rev. Dr. Alfred Adewale Martins, has advised the PTF to ensure that people continue to observe basic Covid-19 non-pharmaceutical protocols, rather than contemplate another lockdown in 2021.
According to Mustapha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the ban, which was based on presidential authority, took effect from January 1 and would run through June 30, 2021.
The PTF boss said the defaulting passengers had been notified of the decision for breaching the public health protocols, within ambit of the law and would be prevented from travelling out of the country during the period.
The latest move by government followed the threat it issued on December 24 last year to publish the list of the passengers for either failing to have their Covid-19 PCR test after arriving the country or for presenting fake Covid-19 PCR result on arrival.
On the same day, the PTF further disclosed that only about 60 per cent of the passengers due for testing actually presented themselves for testing after seven days, saying their attitude was responsible for the community spread of the virus.
It claimed that 168,818 in bound travellers were captured on the portal, and of that number, 77,025 (47 per cent) made payment for post arrival testing; while 64,405 (84 per cent) of the number were due for post-arrival test.
It lamented that 20,216 (31 per cent) have not shown up for post arrival test thereby endangering members of the community and breaching the protocols they signed up to.
It also raised the alarm that since the opening of the international space in September last year, the average number of daily imported infections in the country in last 100 days was about seven cases, compared to 100-150m reported new infections in the community, while the Test Positivity Rate in travellers arriving Lagos has doubled to 6.3 per cent.
Meanwhile, Lagos Archbishop Martins, while speaking during his New Year message with the theme: ‘Be Courageous, Don’t Enter the New Year with Fear’ hinted that lockdowns have always created many other problems.
He averred that the Church has a huge role to play in the fight against Covid-19 especially, in educating people on what needs to be done and how it needs to be done to stem the tide of the pandemic.
“I will suggest that the church should follow the Covid-19 protocols that have been laid down by government, it might be uncomfortable, but it is a small price to pay for safety of oneself and others. I hope there will not be another lockdown,” he stated.
The clergy, however, tasked governments at all levels to be proactive in addressing the myriad of fears being expressed by the citizens.
Martins also expressed concerns over the rising insecurity – from kidnappings, ritual killings, endemic rape; the ongoing health crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic; and the challenges from the current economic recession, collapse of some industries, and worsening poverty.
According to him, “Government needs to urgently address the insecurity issues by putting in place appropriate measures and policies that would mitigate against the projected renewed economic challenges that may come with the New Year.
“There is need for more pragmatic approaches in tackling the health challenges occasioned by the new strain of the Covid-19 virus in order to guard against another round of total economic lockdown in view of the colossal losses it would cost the entire nation.
“We thank the good Lord for making it possible for us to see the beginning of the New Year 2021. We pray that the souls of our brothers and sisters, who died in the year 2020 may rest in peace.
“In this New Year, my admonition to Nigerians is to be bold and courageous and not to allow fear to rob them of the joy of seeing a New Year. I understand so many predictions have been going around on the social media that the year 2021 will be a tough year. But I urge you to be strong and not be afraid.
“Rather than succumb to fear and its corresponding apprehension, people should be optimistic and place their hope and trust in the Almighty God, who is able to turn around all things for good. Yes, there are ominous situations that indicate that the year would be tough but faith and trust in God should make us optimistic and encourage us to go into the New Year with courage.
“Let us start each day with prayerful optimism and go about our responsibilities with utmost caution and in strict adherence to the Covid-19 protocols. However, as we pray with hope for divine intervention, we must also be prepared to work hard and be more productive in order to make the New Year a good and fruitful one. Each one of us is required to make necessary sacrifices and meaningful contributions towards the growth of our nation.
“Certainly, government has a crucial role to play by diligently attending to its constitutional responsibilities without playing unnecessary politics with issues that affect the daily lives of the masses. For instance, so many challenges came up in 2020 in various areas: particularly in the economic, health, security, and education sectors.”