The federal government has temporarily suspended the evacuation of Nigerians stranded abroad.
The minister of foreign affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said the decision is to allow take-off of a new policy on evacuating Nigerians who are willing to return from other countries.
Mr Onyeama, while speaking at the daily Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, said the new policy will take effect from next week.
“What we have been asked to do is to cease or suspend all evacuations for now until this new structure is put into place,” he said. “We are very hopeful that maybe by next week, we should be able to commence evacuation.”
Nigeria has already airlifted hundreds of its citizens from the UK, U.S., Saudi Arabia and others due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused over 300,000 deaths globally.
Mr Onyeama said with the new policy, evacuees would no longer go into 14-day government monitored quarantine if they test negative from their countries of residence.
He said this is so because evacuees will have to be tested at most nine days before their flight takes off. He noted that those who test positive will not be allowed on the flight.
He also said the new policy will give the Nigerian government enough latitude to fly more citizens home.
“Anybody that is going to be evacuated will, first of all, undergo a test from the countries they are leaving from, at least five days before travel and not later than nine days before.
“That will be a pre-condition for boarding the flights to Nigeria. And if they are positive, they will not be able to board the flight,” he said.
The minister said the new policy will ensure evacuees get tested and self-quarantine at home rather than in selected hotels.
“On arrival in Nigeria, Aliko Dangote and his other partners will have in place these units where they will take samples from the passengers coming in and they will retain their passports.
“The passengers will then be able to go home and not into prescribed hotels to self-isolate (quarantine).
“Results from those samples will then be ready within a day or two; those who are positive will be taken in for isolation.
“The whole issue of quarantine in hotels will no longer be necessary. This also means more people can come back more frequently, and it will be a lot easier than it has been up till now,” he said.