International flights: why safety precautions must be taken seriously
Nigeria announced the reopening of its airports for international flights on August 29, 2020, several months after the country shut down all but essential international flight operations, as part of measures to combat the covid-19 pandemic. As the pandemic remains a portent threat with daily reports of infections, some Nigerians who spoke to Ijeoma UKAZU and Williams ABAH explained why travelers must adhere to safety guidelines. Excerpts:
SUNDAY YAKUBU: To a large extent, shutting down international flights affected the growth of our economy. Prices of goods and services are skyrocketing. Maybe reopening would bring some measure of relief to the economy.
Another negative is that investors are no longer coming into the country as before. Goods like rice, groundnut oil, and textile materials are double the price of what used to be. All these occurred because importation of goods and services was crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although reopening flight operations is a welcome development, government should sustain the Covid-19 protocol to guarantee the safety of people at the airport. Nigeria is not yet out of the Covid-19 pandemic. Efforts should be intensified towards prevention of the Virus. Close monitoring should be carried out at the airports in Abuja and Lagos which usually witness influx of people into the country.
ONYECHE EMMANUEL: For me, reopening of flights may further increase the spread of the pandemic. I am saying this because our testing capacity, contact tracing, travel history, and of course general adherence to the WHO protocol against Covid-19 is still poor in Nigeria. Nigeria is a complicated country, when it comes to obeying rules and regulations. People take so many things for granted.
China, where this pandemic started, has reopened all its activities since June. Here, our schools are still closed, and worship centres are still carrying out skeletal services for fear of the virus.
Talking about opening of international flights, we all know how the VIPs behave in this country. Will they submit themselves to the guidelines against the pandemic at the airports? Even when enforcement officers carry out their legitimate duties, their attitude of disobeying law because of their status may frustrate government’s effort. I think government must go beyond just reopening of the flights operation.
There is need to reel out a defined regulations, where everybody will be made to obey the lay down rules irrespective of status.
HASSAN ABDULLAHI: I can confidently say that government is working towards ensuring a Nigeria free from Covid-19. With the reopening of international flights, it is an evidence that normalcy is gradually returning to the country, after months of battling with the pandemic. Confirmed cases are still coming out, but generally the rate of the spread is gradually decreasing.
We need to collectively support the government. If everybody can take responsibility towards ensuring that the virus is eradicated, then we will get rid of the pandemic.
PRECIOUS EDWARD: Based on government’s guidelines and safety precautions, I think reopening is in order if such precautions are adhered to. But in a case where those guidelines are not strictly followed as people board the airplanes, there could be a rise in coronavirus infections in Nigeria.
One problems that could arise from reopening of international flights if the guidelines are not followed is a second wave of infections or rise in more confirmed positive cases which could overwhelm our health system that is lacking necessary facilities to combat any outbreak.
Another problem is that government would be spending more money if new cases of Coronavirus are imported. And that finance is what the country cannot afford as she is said to be broke.
Economically, Nigeria is suffering the huge impact of Coronavirus as companies have either slashed workers’ salaries or sacked their employees. An increase in cases due to opening of international flights will further cause harm to the economy of our country affecting workforce and inflicting more hardship.
DANIEL AKHIDENOR: Coronavirus is still raging and has the likelihood of continuing for months before the availability of a vaccine. Reopening international flights will certainly have implications. One of the major effects could be serious health consequences if precautions are not adhered to. Movement of travellers from one country to another will be cumbersome. It is possible to wear a mask on board but what of social distancing?
Wearing a mask in the aircraft poses serious health issues like asphyxiation and other breathing-related challenges especially those that are having underlying ailments. There might be measures and policies put in place aimed at reducing contact between travellers, crew members and other airport workers, in an effort to ease concerns about spread of coronavirus but the result will be infinitesimal. Moving from one country to another will certainly escalate the pandemic.
Economically, international flight operators have suffered huge financial challenge due to restrictions on traveling, cancellation of tickets; airbus gone moribund sequel to long period of inactivity. The litany of loss will continue as long as Coronavirus pandemic is unabated.
There are countries considering epidemiological situation, transmission pattern, origin and destination, though the airspace has been opened, they will not be receptive to travellers. Many airlines will scramble to adapt to new environment. This implies more connecting flights for travellers that are used to non-stop.
This will further dovetail to hike in flight tickets and possible half-full of aircraft on board. Lack of business patronage can cause lay off of employees resulting from broken value chain. Some of the air flights are products of facilities with banks and inability to make sales and generate income will make the airlines not able to meet their obligations to creditors, ultimately leading to bankruptcy.
Socially, it will have a serious negative effect on passengers that are used to conversation on board. For fear of contracting coronavirus, interactions will be limited, if not totally stopped. No social engagement which might affect the mental and psychological state of passengers.
Financially, Nigeria is a peculiar example of a country that will lack capacity to mitigate any further imported new cases. Recently, it was reported that Nigeria spent N30.5b on fighting coronavirus. Whether this claim is a fact or fiction, money was spent.
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