The Presidential Taskforce (PTF) on COVID-19 disclosed said that since it inaugurated the International Travel Portal about four weeks ago, over 27,000 passengers have entered into the country through the Lagos and Abuja airports.
The Coordinator of the PTF on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu, who spoke at an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) explained that it was a huge operation, with 18,000 coming through Lagos and just a little over 9,000 through Abuja.
“Of the 27,000 plus passengers, 99.8 per cent had a negative COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test result. The majority, specifically 85 per cent, had no issues with payment on the portal. Of the 15 per cent who had issues, 12 per cent had their issues resolved on arrival.
“It is correct to say that of the 27,000 the majority seamlessly went through the registration, entry, and re-testing process.
However, with an operation of this scope and scale, there are bound to be issues that will arise; this is an IT system. It’s not perfect, we are humans, talk less of computers,” he explained.
Aliyu said the Travel Portal was still relatively new.
“We didn’t try out the portal but we immediately implemented it because of the pressure for reopening the international airports. Without the travel portal, we would still be struggling to reopen airports safely,” he said.
The coordinator said that the PTF have been working collaboratively with public and private sector partners to address the issues and challenges as they arise.
“We are aware of a particular case of a traveller who had been charged multiple times for his PCR test on arrival to Nigeria from Sweden.
“The online platform failed to record his payment for the re-test in Nigeria due to technical difficulties. As soon as the PTF was aware of his unfortunate experience, we immediately began investigating to resolve the issue. I am happy to state that the person has been refunded all the extra money he paid. In fact, he was paid the same evening we got that information, and the process is now being fine-tuned to prevent such occurrences,” he stated.
Dr Aliyu said that the PTF do sympathised with the frustration travellers have to go through when the system malfunctions or when they experience these challenges.
“Throughout the world nowadays, if you are travelling, you have to fill in additional information on IT systems belonging to countries, as a prerequisite for travelling.
Nigeria is no different, we need to move away from paper copies. We need to have electronic systems that would allow us to go back and check when things go wrong.
“When people have positive results in-country, having arrived with a negative result or when they fill out a health questionnaire, we need to go back and check if they reported any symptoms when they arrived.
“We cannot continue with paper copies, because it is very difficult to do so, with the number of passengers arriving into the country,” Aliyu noted.
According to him, we get between 5,000 to 7,000 passengers coming into the country every day, when fully opened. The amount of paperwork is huge, and it’s impossible to be able to investigate and find out what goes wrong.
The Coordinator, however, urged returning travellers to please bear with the PTF and not hesitate to bring such issues directly to them. (NAN)