Travel News

More troubles for travel sector as FG may ban UK flights over new coronavirus strain - BUSINESSDAY

DECEMBER 22, 2020

BY Ifeoma Okeke  

The UK last week warned of a new coronavirus variant thought to be up to 70 percent more transmissible than the original strain of the disease.

Barely three months after the resumption of international flights into Nigeria, flights from the UK, the most frequently visited destination by Nigerians, may soon be placed on ban by the Federal Government over highly contagious new variant of coronavirus. The UK last week warned of a new coronavirus variant thought to be up to 70… 

Nigerian government ‘yet to decide’ on flights restrictions amidst threat of COVID-19 variant - PREMIUM TIMES

DECEMBER 22, 2020

The second wave of COVID-19, essentially of a new strain, has begun hitting some countries, including Nigeria

By Nike Adebowale

Amidst high concerns of the rapid spread of the new variant of coronavirus found in the United Kingdom (UK), the Nigerian government is yet to take a decision on international flight restrictions.

Scientists at the Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), in the late hours of Monday, said the new variant has already been found in Nigeria.

Following warnings from the UK government that the new variant of the virus seemed to be spreading much faster than previous kinds, more than 40 countries have banned travel arrivals from the UK.

India, Pakistan, Russia, Jordan and Hong Kong joined European countries in suspending travel from Britain.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman also closed their borders completely.

France also shut its border with the UK for 48 hours, meaning no lorries or ferries can leave from the port of Dover.

But Africa’s most populous country seems to be taking too long to arrive at a decision, a proof that the country failed to learn from its previous mistake.

“A lot of discussions is still going on around the calls for the restriction of international travels due to the discovery of new strains of the virus in certain countries,” Boss Mustapha, the Chairperson of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, said at a briefing on Monday.

“The PTF, Aviation and health authorities including the WHO are assessing the situation closely and would take a position as soon as cogent scientific basis are established.”

Slow pace

Nigeria was one of the last countries to shut its airport activities during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, a decision some said should have been taken earlier to curtail the spread of the virus.

The index case of COVID-19 in Nigeria was found in an Italian who arrived the country from Milan through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, in February.

“The reason Nigeria took a harder than necessary hit during the first wave of the #COVID19 virus is that the Federal Government failed to heed the warnings of well-meaning Nigerians, like myself and others, to shut down our borders once the virus became a pandemic,” Atiku Abubakar, a former presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) wrote on Twitter.

He said the new strain could further add to the country’s health emergency if flights to and from the UK are not halted.

“We must learn from history or we stand the risk of repeating it,” Mr Abubakar said.

Second wave

Following an unprecedented spike in new COVID-19 cases across the country, the Nigerian government has announced that the country has entered the second wave of the pandemic.

This may be partly attributed to the constant breaching of government-enforced COVID-19 safety and testing protocols by passengers travelling in and out of Nigeria, as recently reported by PREMIUM TIMES.

As part of the response to the second wave, the federal authorities ordered the immediate closure of bars, nightclubs, and restaurants across the country. The number of guests at weddings, conferences, among others has also been limited to 50 persons, according to Mr Mustapha.

Even before the federal government’s advisory, many states like Lagos and Kaduna already introduced new rounds of restrictions to limit the spread of the virus.

Nigeria last week recorded more new COVID-19 cases than at any other week since the first case of the virus was registered in the country in February.

Also, about five days ago, the country registered its latest highest daily figure of 1,145, a record likely to be broken soon going by the way the virus is spreading.

Until the resurgence of the infections in December, Nigeria never had a higher number of daily infections than the 745 reported on June 19.

Although, Christian Happi, Professor of molecular biology and genomics and the Director of ACEGID, said he cannot credit the new variant for this rise as it was last seen in October and at the time, there was no surge in the number of cases.

“We, however, haven’t observed such rapid rise of the lineage in Nigeria and do not have sufficient evidence to indicate that the B.1.1.7 lineage is contributing to increased transmission of the virus in Nigeria,” he said.

New variant

The BBC reported that the new variant of coronavirus was first detected in September. In November, around a quarter of cases in London were the new variant. This reached nearly two-thirds of cases in mid-December.

The latest figures released on Monday revealed that another 33,364 people in the UK have tested positive for the virus.

There were also a further 215 deaths within 28 days of testing positive, bringing the nation’s total to 67,616.

The BBC reported that top health officials said there was no evidence the new variant was more deadly or would react differently to vaccines, but it was proving to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the new strain “was out of control. We have got to get it under control”, admitting that this was “an incredibly difficult end to frankly an awful year”, the report said.

The WHO has said it is in close contact with the UK adding that the same strain has been identified in the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia.


There are rising concerns about whether the mutation in the virus will affect the vaccines.

Scientists, however, said the new variant will have no effect on the vaccine although a close watch has to be kept.

“It stands to reason that this mutation isn’t a threat, but you never know. We still have to be diligent and continue to look,” said Nelson Michael, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

A presentation by David Robertson, from the University of Glasgow, on Friday, concluded that “The virus will probably be able to generate vaccine escape mutants.”

Vaccine escape happens when the virus changes so it dodges the full effect of the vaccine and continues to infect people.

Additionally, “the amount of evidence in the public domain is woefully inadequate to draw strong or firm opinions on whether the virus has truly increased transmission,” said Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham.

Nigeria begins trials on Lagos - Ibadan line - IRJ PRO

DECEMBER 22, 2020

Construction of the double-track line began in 2017. The line runs from the Port of Lagos, the country’s biggest population centre and economic hub, to Ibadan, the regional capital of Oyo.

A trial service on October 14, conducted with passengers onboard, achieved an end-to-end journey time of 2h 40min. However, journey times are expected to be cut to two hours following the inauguration of full services on the line.

Tracklaying was completed on March 28 and delivery of rolling stock from CRRC Tangshan was completed in May with a view to opening the line at the end of that month, but this was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The line is intended to reduce traffic on the heavily congested Lagos – Ibadan highway, which is currently the main link between the two cities.

NR will initially offer a daily return passenger service on the line, which will depart Ibadan at 08.00, and Lagos at 16.00, with tickets on sale for between Naira 3000 ($US 7.56) and Naira 6000.

Services will be operated using part of a fleet of 21 locomotives supplied by CRRC Quishuyan under a 2019 contract awarded by the line’s project manager, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC). Delivery of the new fleet was completed on July 10.

The line will also employ a fleet of 60 class 25T passenger coaches, manufactured by CRRC Tangshan under a contract awarded in April 2019.

The project was funded primarily through a Naira 408bn loan approved by the Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank) in January, alongside counterpart funding worth Naira 72bn provided by the Nigerian government.

The line is part of a planned $US 11.1bn, 2733km Lagos – Kano standard-gauge north-south railway. The first 186.5km section of the project, between Abuja and Kaduna, opened in July 2016. CCECC is constructing the line under a $US 8.3bn contract awarded in 2006.

Third Mainland Bridge to be shut down during Christmas - DAILY POST

DECEMBER 22, 2020

The Federal Controller of Works for Lagos State, Olukayode Popoola, has announced a 72-hour total closure of the Third Mainland Bridge, in order to cast concrete on the expansion joints.

Popoola on Tuesday told NAN that the shutdown will take effect from midnight on Saturday to midnight on Tuesday.

According to him, the construction works had reached the stage for casting concrete on additional three expansion joints.

Last week, Popoola said â€œOn the Island-bound lane where we are working now, the contractor is ready to cast another three expansion joints this weekend, but because of the festive period we have a lot of vehicles on the road.

“We were advised to leave it until next week, maybe during the public holiday where we will do the total closure.”

He noted that the work on the surface of the bridge was over 70 per cent done, but the entire project was 22 per cent completed.

Saudi Arabia suspends all international passenger flights for a week - ARAB NEWS

DECEMBER 22, 2020
  • Entry to the Kingdom through land and sea ports has also been suspended
  • Some flights will be allowed in exceptional circumstances

LONDON: Saudi Arabia on Sunday suspended all international passenger flights for one week in response to a new strain of the coronavirus.
Entry to the Kingdom through land and sea ports has also been suspended and this period may be extended by another week. 

The decisions were made in response to the emergence of a potent new strain of the virus in the UK and other European countries.
Some flights will be allowed in exceptional circumstances, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported. 

Anyone who has returned to the Kingdom from European countries or high risk countries after Dec. 8 is required to quarantine for two weeks from the date of their arrival.

They must also undergo a COVID-19 test during their self-isolation period and repeat the test every five days. Anyone who has returned from or transited through a European or high risk country within the last three months must also undergo the test. 

The movement of goods, commodities and supply chains from countries where the mutated virus has not appeared will continue as usual. 
These travel restrictions will be reviewed in accordance with coronavirus related developments.

France to reopen border with England for COVID-clear travellers - REUTERS

DECEMBER 22, 2020

By Philip Blenkinsop, Guy Faulconbridge

BRUSSELS/LONDON (Reuters) - France will reopen its borders to passengers from England on Wednesday, ending a blockade intended to stop the spread of a new coronavirus variant, but which has held up thousands of lorries before Christmas.

Much of the world shut its borders to Britain after a significantly more transmissible mutated coronavirus variant was discovered spreading swiftly across southern England.

With queues of trucks snaking to the horizon in England and some supermarket shelves stripped just days before Christmas, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson scrambled to get French President Emmanuel Macron to lift a ban on freight from Britain.

Late on Tuesday a deal was reached with Paris to allow French and other EU residents to return home, providing they have a negative COVID test that is less than 72 hours old.

Britain said it would begin handing out tests at multiple locations on Wednesday, but cautioned that the process would take time.

“We’ll be making sure that tomorrow we’re out there providing tests,” Shapps said. “This will take two or three days for things to be cleared.”

Truckers were told not to travel to the Kent region where the most heavily used rail and ferry links are..

Earlier the European Commission advised that non-essential travel to and from Britain should be discouraged but said that people heading home should be allowed to do so, provided they undergo a COVID-19 test or quarantine for 10 days.

However, border controls are governed by national policy, so each EU country can have its own rules.

Shapps said France had agreed to accept the results of “lateral flow” COVID tests which have been used in other mass testing programmes. They typically give results within an hour.

The discovery of the new variant, just months before vaccines are expected to be widely available, sowed a fresh wave of panic in a pandemic that has killed about 1.7 million people worldwide and more than 67,000 in Britain.

Scientists say there is no evidence that vaccines currently being deployed in Britain - made by Pfizer and BioNTech - or other COVID-19 shots in development will not protect against this variant, known as the B.1.1.7 lineage

The United Kingdom’s effective COVID-19 quarantine came just nine days before it is due to part ways with the EU after a transition period - considered to be one of the biggest changes in post-World War Two British history.

Countries across Europe and beyond have suspended travel from Britain since the weekend. Germany imposed a ban on UK travellers from Tuesday that could remain in place until Jan. 6.

One exception was the United States, which does not intend to impose COVID-19 screenings for passengers from Britain.

Cases of the new strain have also been detected in some other countries, including Denmark and Italy. Experts said the prevalence in Britain might be down to better detection.

Britain’s border crisis led to some panic-buying: shoppers stripped shelves in some supermarkets of turkey, toilet rolls, bread and vegetables.

While the government said there was enough food for Christmas, market leader Tesco and No. 2 player Sainsbury’s both said food supplies would be affected if the disruption continued. Tesco said it had imposed temporary buying limits on some essential products.

Britain said 632 trucks were stacked up on the M20 motorway in Kent, southern England, and 2,188 at nearby Manston Airport, now being used as a giant lorry park. The government said additional toilets and food vendors were being arranged, after the Road Haulage Association raised concerns about drivers’ welfare.

While trucks were still able to cross from France to Britain, they could not return so European truck drivers were extremely reluctant to travel.

The border closures were causing headaches across Europe, especially for those trying to transport perishable food. Milk suppliers were already trying to boost milk stocks in Britain ahead of Brexit.

“The plan was to stock up in the next 10 days so if there is a Brexit problem there are stocks for January,” said Alexander Anton, the secretary general of the European Dairy Association. “Now you can’t find a transport company to send a driver to the UK.”

Lactalis, the world’s biggest dairy company, has had to reschedule some lorry deliveries to Britain because of the border closure, a spokesman for the French group said.

Television footage showed a small group of people arguing with police at the entrance to the Dover port.

Elsewhere, drivers, some swearing about Johnson and Macron, said they just wanted to get back home in time for Christmas.

Writing by Guy Faulconbridge, Kate Holton and William James; Editing by Pravin Char, Nick Macfie and Giles Elgood

Uncertainty over FG’s stance on international flight leaves intending travellers sweating - BUSINESSDAY

DECEMBER 23, 2020

BY  Ifeoma Okeke

Meanwhile, intending travellers who have their tickets booked are in a dilemma on whether to cancel their flights or take the next available flight to Nigeria

As countries across the world begin banning passenger flights from the United Kingdom (UK) following the spread of the new coronavirus variant, passengers who have booked their flights from the UK to Nigeria and vice versa are getting apprehensive as to what the government’s decision would be. Already, about 17 countries have banned passenger flights… 

Buhari orders sanctions for in-bound passengers evading COVID-19 test - REUTERS

DECEMBER 23, 2020

BY  Olalekan Adetayo , Abuja

 The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Tuesday extended the mandate of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 led by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, till the end of March 2021.

Buhari announced the extension at a meeting he had with members of the task force during which they presented their end-of-the-year report to him at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The President attributed the extension to the second wave of the virus.

Buhari also directed the PTF and the Nigeria Immigration Service to ensure that all in-bound passengers who failed to show up for post -arrival COVID-19 test were sanctioned within the ambit of the law.

The President said, “I have authorised the following measures for implementation: the extension of the mandate of the PTF for a further period till the end of March, 2021 bearing in mind the new surge in the number of cases and the bid for vaccines.

“That the PTF should coordinate the process for planning and the strategy for accessing, delivery and administration of the vaccines using the existing health structures that have worked in the past in vaccine administration.

“Authorised the PTF to engage with the states for them to assume full ownership of this stage of the response by deploying legal structures and resources, including enforcement to manage the pandemic within their jurisdictions. Details of the advisory measures have already been announced.

“Authorised the PTF and the Nigeria Immigration Service to ensure that all in-bound passengers who failed to show up for post -arrival COVID-19 test are sanctioned within the ambit of the law, for breaching the public health protocols.”

As the festive season approaches, the President urged all Nigerians to remain vigilant, warning that  non-essential trips and large social gatherings should be avoided or shelved completely.

The National Coordinator of the PTF, Sani Aliyu, in his remarks, said Nigeria stood at 78,434 cases and 1,221 deaths.

Boris Johnson Considers Locking Down More of England to Curb Virus - BNN BLOOMBERG

DECEMBER 23, 2020

BY  Kitty DonaldsonBloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson’s government is examining whether to move more areas of England into lockdown to counter a faster-spreading variant of coronavirus.

Ministers are considering whether to apply the highest Tier 4 restrictions -- forcing non-essential shops and leisure facilities to close -- to more regions, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Ministers and scientific experts met late Tuesday after cases of the new Covid-19 strain were identified outside London and southeast England, which were placed into Tier 4 last weekend.

The Sun newspaper first reported the meeting and said an announcement on the new tier designations could come as soon as Wednesday and take effect on Dec. 26, without saying where it obtained the information.

Applying an effective lockdown more widely will be a significant blow to Johnson. He has faced criticism of the government’s handling of the pandemic, most recently over a U-turn on his plan to significantly relax social-distancing rules over Christmas. A surge in cases forced that reversal, and more than 16 million Britons are now required to stay at home.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday the new strain of the coronavirus is “out of control” and suggested the parts of England placed into the Tier 4 would have to stay at the level until a vaccine has been rolled out.

Speaking alongside Johnson at a press conference Monday, Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said more regions will face tighter restrictions with the new coronavirus variant likely to spread across the country.

Jamaica greets first flight from Lagos, Nigeria - ASSOCIATED TIMES

DECEMBER 23, 2020

Jamaica witnessed the historical moments of its first flight from Lagos, Nigeria, to the Sangster International Airport in St James.

By Harry Williams

At the airport, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith was on hand to greet Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffery Onyeama, and other delegates who landed on the flight carrying 150 persons.

The minister stated that she was “genuinely delighted that after 400 years of partaken history, Jamaica and Nigeria could celebrate this historic direct charter flight from Lagos to Montego Bay.

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She said” “The meaning of this flight is important as both countries are celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations this year.”

Minister also added that we have been able to execute the flight happen upon the backdrop of the significant global tests that defined 2020 makes it that much more meaningful.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, said that the pandemic had deepened the need to connect “and this makes this coming home of the family too more special.

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The foreign affairs minister also showed hope that the Air Peace charter flight will “represent the start of a new era of strong cooperation within Jamaica and Nigeria and ultimately the rest of Africa and the wider Caribbean.”

In the meantime, she noted that “the flights hold much promise for increased people to people contact through tourism and increased trade and investment opportunities.”

Johnson Smith congratulated the ministers of tourism and transport and mining to support the flight arrangements and expressed confidence in the programme in place.

She also shared that with collaboration among the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Ministry of National Security and other essential stakeholders, all protocols must carefully welcome aircrew and passengers to the Resilient Corridor.


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