As airline operators wait with bated eyes, for the resumption of domestic flight operations, come July 8, 2020, the World Health Organization, (WHO) has urged that effective measures be taken by airport users and operators to mitigate the risk of possible surge in the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.
The body goes further to admonish Nigeria and other African countries, to be extra-vigilant in keeping to the COVID-19 prevention rules, ostensibly due to lack of requisite cure and technology to tame the scourge, should it escalate beyond proportion.
The global health body noted that while open borders are vital for the free flow of goods and people, its initial analysis found that lockdowns along with public health measures, reduced the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.
It said even with border restrictions, imported cases have sometimes brought back COVID-19 to countries which had not reported cases for a length of time.
“Air travel is vital to the economic health of countries. But as we take to the skies again, we cannot let our guard down. Our new normal still requires stringent measures to stem the spread of COVID-19,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti.
To resume international air travel, WHO recommends that countries assess the epidemiological situation to determine whether maintaining restrictions outweighs the economic costs of reopening borders if, for instance, there is widespread transmission of the virus.
It also urged countries to have systems in place at points of entry including airports.
“The resumption of commercial flights in Africa will facilitate the delivery of crucial supplies such as testing kits, personal protective equipment and other essential health commodities to areas which need them most. It will also ensure that experts, who can support the response can finally get on the ground and work,” said Dr. Moeti.
According to the organisation, “the impact of COVID-19 on airlines is likely to be severe. African airlines could lose US$ 6 billion of passenger revenue compared to 2019 and job losses in aviation and related industries could grow to 3.1 million, half of the region’s 6.2 million aviation-related employment, according to the International Air Transport Association.