The Federal Government has said it will bar air passengers who fail to comply with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) guidelines from travelling through the Nigerian airspace for six months.

Sani Aliyu, Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, announced this at a press briefing on Monday ahead of the resumption of international flights.

The Federal Government had closed the country’s airspace in March as part of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The airports were reopened for only domestic flights on 8 July, adding that international flights will commence on 5 September.

Speaking on the preparation of the resumption of international flights, Aliyu said the government is committed to the safety and security of Nigerians, adding that the PTF is working with relevant stakeholders in the aviation sector to ensure that Nigeria does not witness a fresh spike of infections.

He explained that here would be sanctions for non-compliance with the guidelines on the part of the airlines and the passengers.

He said: “There will definitely be sanctions if they do not comply. Sanctions to the airlines if they allow passengers without a COVID-19 PCR result to board, they will be sanctioned on arrival in Nigeria. That is the airline. For passengers that decline to do the test, at Day 7, we will still allow them after Day 14 to have a test done after which their details will be forwarded to Port Health, Immigration, and part of the security services.

“It is very likely we will put in place measures to enforce this by suspending travel up to six months or deny foreign travels altogether.

“But beyond the sanctions, because as responsible citizens, we all want our country to continue to be COVID-19-free once we get on top of the pandemic, so, we expect the vast number of travellers to continue to comply with these simple, straightforward measures we are putting in place for the benefit of our country and for the health of our citizens.”

The PTF stated that passengers entering the country must undergo the mandatory test to ascertain their COVID-19 status.

According to him, any passenger who possesses the symptoms of the coronavirus disease will not be granted entry into the aircraft even after getting a medical report that indicates they are free from the virus.

Aliyu’s remarks come three days after the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) said the resumption of international flights has now been shifted to 5 September.

The NCAA had earlier announced 29 August as the date for the international flights’ resumption.