Ebola: FG steps up passenger screening at airports

Additional personnel, thermal scanners and sanitisers have been deployed in Nigeria’s two major international airports by the Federal Government as part of measures to forestall another round of Ebola outbreak in Nigeria.

It was learnt that the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, were the two major focus areas, although plans were in top gear to extend similar surveillance to the Port Harcourt International Airport, Rivers State, as well as the Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.

Our correspondents gathered on Sunday that the deployment of additional personnel in the airports followed the reported outbreak of Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo recently.

The World Health Organisation recently confirmed the death of at least one person as a result of Ebola in the North-East of Congo, a development that has prompted increased surveillance in Nigeria.

Officials at the NAIA as well as the MMIA confirmed to one of our correspondents on Sunday that the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria was aware of the development in Congo and had directed Port Health officials and its doctors at the airports to step up their activities.

The Acting General Manager, Public Affairs, FAAN, Mrs. Henrietta Yakubu, told The PUNCH that although the screening of passengers had been on since the last Ebola incident in Nigeria, the authority had stepped up its surveillance on inbound travellers at the arrival halls of the Lagos and Abuja airports following the recent Ebola case in Congo.

Yakubu stated, “Of course, the Congo incident has called for increased surveillance and screening. I’ve spoken with our doctors in Lagos, Port Health officials as well as those in Abuja and FAAN will definitely come up with something. There has to be increased surveillance now that Ebola has been detected in Congo

“By tomorrow, we will definitely come out with other things that FAAN is doing with respect to the issue you raised and I’ll let you know.

“However, we have always had thermal scanners in our airports that monitor temperature of passengers and capture their pictures. We still have hand sanitisers in our rest rooms too.”

Explaining how the equipment works, Yakubu added, “These scanners are fixed apparatus at the arrival halls that take the picture and temperature of any given passenger at a particular time as the traveller passes through them. And we have Port Health officers behind the apparatus.

“So, once it detects a temperature that is above normal, the officials will just single you out immediately and take you out of the queue for further screening. That screening or exercise is going on up till this moment.

“In fact, the equipment and officials have never been removed even after the last Ebola incident. They are now fixed apparatus in the arrival hall. We have it in Abuja and in Lagos airports. I’ll have to confirm that of Port Harcourt, but I’m sure they are in Abuja and Lagos.

“Also going by the latest incident, we are increasing our screening.”

When one of our correspondents visited the Abuja airport on Sunday, officials went about their normal duties.

One of them, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “There is no panic among us because there is improved security and safety procedures here at this airport. The facilities needed to detect very high temperature are in place and if such is detected, we know how to handle it.

“We are cautious and so far, there has not been any cause for alarm.”

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Customs Service, on Sunday, said it would collaborate with all agencies of government, particularly those in the health sector to prevent another outbreak of Ebola virus in the country.

The Public Relations Officer, NCS, Mr. Joseph Attah, told The PUNCH in a telephone interview that the agency had always been alive to its responsibilities.

It added that it would provide the necessary collaboration with the health ministry to check any outbreak of the disease.

Attah stated that just like it did when the first incident of Ebola virus was recorded in the country in 2014, the agency would intensify efforts at ensuring that the all directives that would ensure the safety of the people were effectively implemented.

The NCS spokesman added, “Just like the last time, the NCS will work hand-in-hand with relevant health agencies to ensure that the best practices are put in place to safeguard the health of our people.

“So, we will cooperate with all relevant agencies to ensure the implementation of all health directives such that nothing that could affect the health of our people is allowed.Punch

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