Editor's note: Dr Olamide Tayo, a Nigerian healthcare professional, shares his experience using the Nigeria International Travel Portal the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and Nigeria Centre for Disease Contro, NCDC established as the international travel protocol for COVID-19 management in the country.
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I returned to the country recently amidst publicized frustration with the Nigeria International Travel Portal the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and NCDC established as the international travel protocol for COVID-19 management. It motivated me to share my personal travel experience departing and returning to Nigeria.
Departing Abuja, Nigeria
Before leaving Nigeria, I drove to a COVID-19 testing site at The Dome in Abuja and did a test five days before my travel date. It took ten minutes to complete paperwork and sample collection. I got my results by text on the fourth day.
On departing, I observed that physical distancing and face masks were practised at the Abuja airport. I noted that not all airlines and countries require a COVID-19 test before departing, therefore, travellers need to confirm with the airline and the country of destination well ahead of time.
I had booked Air France for the first leg of my trip to Atlanta, Georgia, USA. It was a packed flight with no space between seats. However, passengers wore face masks. On arrival at Charles De Gaulle Airport, Paris, I found that there was no physical distancing, but people wore face masks.
The next leg was a Delta Flight from Paris to Atlanta. There was particularly useful physical distancing, as well as the use of face masks and hand sanitizers. Everyone was well spaced-out at the airport. Passengers filled a form, and they guided us to self-isolate for the first 14 days.
Returning to Abuja, Nigeria
For my return flight to Nigeria, I did my COVID-19 test in Atlanta, Georgia, without a problem by logging onto the Georgia Department of Health website. I booked my appointment five days before departure. It took 10-15 minutes, and I got my required PCR results in two days. Apparently, Nigeria does not accept rapid antibody test results. It must be PCR.
With my negative PCR test result, I logged onto the NCDC website - https://nitp.ncdc.gov.ng. It took me six minutes to enter information for my spouse and me. However, it took about three trials for our payment processing for the re-test. It eventually worked as it initially showed error messages. I paid N39,500 using my naira debit card. I got both our QR codes in my email inbox within five minutes. I printed hard copies but also had electronic versions. When I did not get my QR code initially, I printed the temporary code available on the website but ended up not needing it after I got the permanent QR code as proof of my registration and my receipt for the re-test in Nigeria.
My travel itinerary was Atlanta-Chicago-London-Abuja. All the airline staff insisted on seeing COVID-19 test results to confirm my negative result and five-day testing window.
The last leg of the flight was on British Airways. There was spacing between passengers on board. We landed in Abuja at 4:35 am, and I was out with my luggage and through immigration by 5:30 am. I completed the Nigeria health form on the flight prior to landing; a one-pager that only took three to four minutes to fill out.
I have a few observations from my experience at the Abuja airport. There were four arrival lines. It was quick and seamless for those of us who had registered, paid, and had a QR code before arrival. I went through Immigration in about 15-20 minutes. Other traveller categories were those who registered on the NCDC website but didn’t receive their QR code despite payment; travellers who registered and printed a temporary code but had not paid; and those who had not done any registration or payment. This category of non-payment or registration had to go to another section. Out of curiosity, I asked someone in this category why he did not register. He said he just ignored the link the airline had sent to him once he had the COVID-19 test to board.
Another observation was that there was no rushing or disorganization at the arrival airport. I got through Immigration quickly and had to give them my address in case they needed to track me for not doing the COVID-19 retest. The next step will be to self-isolate for seven days and go for the test on Day 7. It was a smooth experience overall.
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