Our attention has been drawn to a report published by the Daily Independent newspaper on the 14th of September 2020, with the title: “Fraud Rocks NCDC COVID-19 Tests For Air Travellers”
This report is simply incorrect and based on information that is inconsistent with the truth. In addition, no attempt was made to contact the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on this matter before the newspaper went to press. This article is an unfortunate misrepresentation of efforts by Government Ministries and Agencies, to enable safe travel in the context of a pandemic affecting every country in the world.
The Nigeria International Travel Portal (NITP) was launched by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 (PTF-COVID-19) with support from the Coalition Against COVID (CA-COVID). The aim of this platform is to ensure safe travel in the context of COVID-19, and to reduce the risk of a spike in COVID-19 cases as international flights resume. The NITP is currently hosted on the web portal of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and co-managed with Port Health Services of the Federal Ministry of Health and other government institutions within PTF-COVID-19.
The decision to make repeat tests mandatory in Nigeria was based on a review of data by NCDC and PTF-COVID-19. The goal was to find the right balance between protecting Nigeria from more infections, while supporting the restart of international travel. From May till August 2020, evacuation and emergency flights were allowed into the country following an initial restriction on international flights. Of the number of people who returned to Nigeria, 5% tested positive within 14 days of arrival in Nigeria. In addition, several people flouted self-isolation guidance on return. Based on this data and the current capacity in Nigeria, it was decided that all travellers to Nigeria must be tested after seven days of return to the country. This was to enable early detection and to reduce the risk of further transmission of the disease.
The NCDC has activated several public health laboratories for COVID-19 in Nigeria as at the 14th of September 2020. These laboratories are for public health purposes and therefore provide testing free of charge to the public. To ensure that the public health response is not affected by personal requests and needs, all travel-related testing can only be carried out in private laboratories. This is similar to current practice in countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, United Arab Emirates and others.
The private laboratories that provide testing for COVID-19 are commercial entities, independent of the Government of Nigeria. The PTF-COVID-19 has ensured that the prices indicated by these laboratories are as subsidised as possible. All payment received on the travel platform are sent directly to the laboratories where the passenger has chosen to be tested, chosen from a list of private laboratories approved for testing COVID-19 in Nigeria. No payment is received by NCDC for any purpose, whatsoever. We advise that passengers should not make payments outside of the official platform. The NCDC COVID-19 microsite has a list of frequently asked questions and answers, for passengers who may be facing challenges with the travel portal.
It is important to emphasise that public health laboratories in the NCDC network do not provide testing services to individuals for travel-related purposes. The public health laboratories provide testing free-of-charge as part of the national response. Therefore, travellers are strongly advised
to only access accredited private laboratories. A list of accredited private laboratories can be found via www.covid19.ncdc.gov.ng
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and PTF-COVID-19 remains committed to strengthening Nigeria’s response to COVID-19, and controlling this outbreak. We urge the public to remain aware of the risks of COVID-19 and to adhere to the preventive measures advised by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and the Federal Ministry of Health.