New Telegraph

COVID-19: Medical experts uneasy over resumption of flights

  • Insist risk of transmission high


Against the background that the Federal Government has announced the resumption schedule for domestic flight operations in Nigeria, a medical expert has urged governments to adopt measures that would lower the risk of passengers becoming infected with coronavirus during the period of their flights.


The President of the Guild of Medical Directors (GMD), Prof. Femi Babalola, who made the call, said left to the GMD, it was not advisable that people travel by air at this time.


“However, if people must travel, then all passengers should be tested and declared COVID-19 free at least 48 hours before embarkation,” he added


. Most importantly, he said: “Validated serological tests should also be undertaken immediately before embarkation to mitigate the risk to passengers.”


Going by the schedule that was announced by the Minister for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, domestic flight operations will resume in Abuja and Lagos airports on Wednesday.


Reacting to this, the GMD President said: “Certainly, the resumption of air flights is a cause for concern, as is the lifting of the ban on interstate travel.”


According to him, it was certain that the COVID-19 Virion could be suspended in the air for a period of time, and the air in aircraft cabin is shared by all on the flight.


“Therefore there is a high risk that infection spreads easily among all in the cabin,” he stressed. Virion is a complete virus particle that consists of an RNA or DNA core with a protein coat sometimes with external envelopes and that is the extracellular infectious form of a virus.


While a flight lasts anyone infected with coronavirus on board could pose risks to other air-bound passengers, he reasoned.


Although, the risk is also there for those traveling by road, but at least that risk could be somewhat mitigated by keeping the vehicles’ windows open, said Babalola.


He said: “Left to the GMD, it is not advisable that people travel by air at this time.


“However, if people must travel, then all passengers should be tested and declared COVID free at least 48 hours before embarkation.” With the outbreak of the pandemic globally, there has been lock-down on several aspects of businesses as part of general protocol to curb spread of the coronavirus.


This led to the closure of commercial flight operations both locally and at the international level.


However, as the lock-down is gradually being eased, the medical expert said adopting the suggested measures could help to reduce virus spread.


Although, he did not quite agree with the position of Babalola, the President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Prof. Innocent Ujah, said: “The basic principle about air travel was that anybody entering an airplane should be checked for temperature and the person must use face mask before he is allowed to board the aircraft and then there should be sanitizers at the point of checking in; people should use sanitizers before they check in.



“Although, the mode of transmission of COVID-19 is different from that of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), notwithstanding the basic principle is that persons travelling by air should observe basic hygiene: hand washing, using hand sanitizers, and this days, we are adding face masks and it is not too difficult to do that to prevent the spread of infection during flight.”

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