Federal Government’s plan to reopen the international airspace amid restricted traffic flow and four daily flights each at Lagos and Abuja airports has stirred worry in the industry.
The situation is made worrisome, as no measure had been spelt out to determining the lucky eight from a pool of over 20 operators raring to resume operations from this month end.
Though the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, had said the restriction was for a short time, The Guardian has, however, learnt that the development might not be unconnected with an alleged plot to draw airlines and air traffic to Abuja.
Besides, the COVID-19 medical response team in Lagos is wary of the new travel protocols for arriving travellers. They are worried that in a bid to make travelling more friendly, the relaxed guidelines might compromise control efforts and worsen the spread of the disease in the country.
After about five months of lockdown, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration announced resumption of foreign flights at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja from August 29.
Moreover, the ‘new normal’ allows maximum of 1280 passengers arriving each of the gateways.
Contrary to the previous 14-day quarantine of all landing passengers, the new protocol leaves quarantine and testing at the discretion of travellers and allows unfettered access into the country even before their COVID-19 statuses are known.
The 1280 passengers per airport benchmark by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 implies an average of four aircraft with each conveying 320 lives.
A document, credited to the task force and sighted by The Guardian, stated that government should approve only four international air companies from different zones to fly into Nigeria, conveying not more than 1280 passengers daily.
Sirika, during a zoom meeting with stakeholders at the weekend, explained that the decision was to test the country’s capacity and preparedness for challenges.