The federal government has suspended further evacuation of Nigerians stranded abroad over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Geoffrey Onyeama, minister of foreign affairs, who announced this during the presidential task force on COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, however, said the evacuation is expected to continue soon.
He said the evacuation was suspended to give room for new measures that would require citizens returning from overseas to get tested and self-isolate at home rather than in selected hotels.
“There is going to be a change in that protocol and that is going to affect the timing of any further evacuation we are going to undertake,” he said.
“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.
“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. Results from those samples will then be ready within a day or two; those who are positive will then be taking in for isolation.
“The whole issue of quarantining in hotels will no longer be necessary. This can also mean more people can also come back more frequently, and it will be a lot easier than it has been up to now.
“What we have been asked to do is to cease or suspend all evacuations for now until this new structure is put into place. We are very hopeful that maybe by next week, we should be able to commence evacuation.”
He added that the federal government has also evacuated some Nigerian girls that were trafficked to Lebanon.
“We are able to evacuate 69 Nigerians, 50 trafficked Nigerian girls from Lebanon and 19 other Nigerians, and they all arrived safely and are in quarantine,” he said, while thanking Lebanese community in Nigeria who “funded the cost of flight and hotel accommodation for the trafficked girls.”