Nigeria announced Sub-Sahara Africa's first coronavirus index case through an Italian who arrived through Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos on 24th February, 2020. Hence, the activation of Nigeria's National Coronavirus Emergency Operation Centre.

As the nation's apex regulatory body, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) under the leadership of Capt. Musa Shuaibu Nuhu has taken a battery of measures (issuance of Letters, Circulars and participation in series of meetings that have been held in all fronts so far) to protect passengers and the general public from the raging global pandemic. 

On the 5th March, 2020, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) through a letter to all operators and other stakeholders ordered all airlines operating International and Regional flights into Nigeria to issue Health Declaration Forms to their passengers including crew members aboard aircraft before arriving Nigerian airports.

This warning is coming on the heels of failure of some airlines operating International and Regional flights into Nigeria to provide Health Declaration Forms (Passengers self-reporting forms).

In that regard, Airlines are ordered to remind passengers to provide factual address and phone numbers to enhance contact tracing in case there is need to do so. The Health Declaration forms (Passenger Self-Reporting Forms) will be collected and evaluated by the personnel of Port Health Services (PHS) at the various International Airports of the country on the arrival of the passengers and crew members alike.

The Authority issued new directive to operators on International and Regional routes into Nigeria to allow passengers without International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP) otherwise known as Yellow Card board.  The new directive supercedes earlier one referenced NCAA/DG/AMS/74/Vol.III/44 dated February 10, 2020. However, passengers be advised that they would be vaccinated accordingly at Points of Entry (POE) and the process for obtaining the e-yellow card will be initiated.

This Policy shift is sequel to a letter received from the Federal Ministry of Health reviewing the implementation of the operationalization of Nigeria Points of Entry policy on the prevention and control of cross border transmission of Yellow Fever. The review of the policy arose from the competing priority of the ongoing entry screening of our POE by the Port Health Services (PHS) for COVID-19. Hence, entry screening of passengers due to the pandemic will be prioritised by the PHS until the outbreak has been effectively contained.

Given that majority of new coronavirus cases are returnees   from Europe, Canada and United States, NCAA issued ALL OPERATORS LETTER (AOL) referenced NCAA/DG/AIR/11/16/103 dated 19th March, 2020 and signed by DG NCAA, Capt. Nuhu Musa placing restrictions on travellers coming into the country from the following thirteen (13) worst-hit countries: China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States of America. This travel restriction was later extended to Sweden and Austria as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus in the country.

Consequently, all persons arriving into Nigeria who might have visited these countries, 15 days prior to such arrival will be subjected to supervised self-isolation and testing for 14 days. The travel restriction is applicable to all flight crew from the affected countries. All operators wishing to operate/fly into Nigeria are required to operate with two (2) sets of flight crew (augmented crew); one set to operate into Nigeria while the other set to operate out of Nigeria.

In the same light, Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano (DNKN), Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu (DNEN) and Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa (DNPO) will be closed to all international flights effective from 00:01 hours on Saturday, 21st March, 2020. That only Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja (DNAA) and Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos (DNMM) will be opened to accept international flights irrespective of the type of operation.

On 21st March, 2020, the Authority issued AOL that, effective Monday, 23rd March, 2020 at 2300Z to 23rd April, 2020 at 2300Z, Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos (DNMM) and Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja (DNAA) will be closed to all international flights. It will be recalled that Mallam Aminu International Airport, Kano (DNKN), Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu (DNEN) and Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa (DNPO) had earlier been closed effective from Saturday, March 21 at 2300Z. This however excludes Emergency and Essential Flights and domestic flights which will continue normal operations at all airports.

As an update to the above, directive was also given through NCAA/DG/AIR//11/16//108 dated 23rd March, 2020 reeling out the following measures to further protect passengers and the general public against the spread of COVID-19: All personnel without exception coming into any airport terminal (domestic and international terminals) must undergo temperature check and hand cleaning with sanitizer; All passengers without exception must undergo temperature check and hand cleaning with sanitizer at all terminals before being allowed to board aircraft; and all aircraft must be disinfected  before each flight.

In furtherance to the earlier letter on restriction of international flights into Nigeria, the Authority on March 23, 2020 made clarification on flights considered to be "essential flights". These are Aircraft in State of emergency; Over flights; Operations related to humanitarian aid, medical and relief flights; Alternate aerodromes identified in the flight plan )including those being used for extended diversion time operations; Technical stop where passengers do not disembark; Cargo flights; and Other safety related operations.

Besides aircraft in a state of emergency, request for approval for other flights shall be addressed to the Honourable Minister of Aviation. However, any international flight operation that might be so approved shall be required to submit manifest to the Port Health Authority prior to arrival in Nigeria.

On the 24th March, 2020 the Authority via an AOL referenced NCAA/DG/AIR/11/16/109 issued strict directive for the following Protocol in the operation and handling of cargo and other essential flights: Reinforced crew for immediate return; Crew should wear face mask (N95) and hand gloves; There will be no serving of aircraft (catering, water, trash, etc) with exception of aircraft fuelling. Aircraft fuelling to be accomplished with flight crew on board; Contact between flight crew and ground staff prohibited and social distancing must be observed between flight crew and ground staff during walk around; and Use of electronic flight plan facilities in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt to forward documents to flight crew including clearance, flight plans and other documents.

Within its immediate confines, detailed guidelines for officers of the Authority who have recently travelled abroad to self-isolate for 14 days among sundry other measures upon their return to Nigeria have been issued to staff. This is just as a directive for compilation of details of all NCAA staff already on any official assignments or trainings to a country where there is community transmission of COVID-19. This compilation is to be forwarded to the Office of the Director General and the General Manager, Department of Aero Medical Standards.

In a similar vein, all pending inspections, trainings and various exchange programmes in involving foreign trips were suspended forthwith.

To complement all these, the Authority has also directed that the 2020 Promotion Exercise for staff scheduled to hold on 4th April, 2020 be suspended till further notice. This postponement is in line with advice given by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for Organisations to avoid large gatherings.

This is addition to re-emphasizing among staffers the directive of “Maintaining Social Distancing", hand wash exercise and avoiding crowding in the office and/or within the workplace. The Management has also directed that the permission of entry by non-essential visitors into all NCAA premises be suspended until further notice. In other words, only visitors on official assignments with sufficient evidence will be allowed access after undergoing appropriate screening.

In compliance with the Federal Government directive contained in a Circular numbered HCSF/109/S.1/1/100 dated 23rd March, 2020, the Authority directed that all its staffers on level 12 and below to compulsorily stay at home till further notice.

While NCAA will continue to synergise with all key players on curbing spread of the global health emergency, it enjoins all passengers and the general public to be vigilant and to comply with all the directives issued.