COVID-19: 324 Nigerians evacuated from U.S. expected in Abuja today

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A flight evacuating Nigerians stranded in the United States due to the coronavirus pandemic is expected to arrive at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, today (Saturday).

The aircraft, with 324 passengers on board, took off from Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, on Friday night.

It is the third evacuation flight from the U.S. arranged by the Federal Government in two months, bringing the total number of evacuees to 811.

The travellers were screened for COVID-19 symptoms and subjected to other monitoring requirements, including presentation of their coronavirus test results.

The departure operation was coordinated by officials of the Nigerian consulate in New York on behalf of the Nigerian missions in the U.S.

The Consul General, Mr. Benaoyagha Okoyen, disclosed that three persons were denied boarding for failing to present their COVID-19 test results.

Nine persons, including a family of five, were dropped from the last flight for the same reason.

Okoyen said arrangement had been made to accommodate them in the next flight scheduled for July 28.

The COVID-19 test result is one of the requirements for evacuation under the Revised Quarantine Protocol of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

The U.S., which has been an epicentre of the COVID-19 crisis, is grappling with what experts call a second wave of infections, with a record 75,600 new cases on Thursday alone.

Dr Philip Ozuah, a U.S.-based Nigerian medical doctor and Chief Executive Officer of Montefiore Medical Centre, New York, was among those at the airport to witness the evacuation.

Ozuah explained he was at the airport in solidarity with the consular officials for “the amazing evacuation operations”.

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Some executive members of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Americas, led by their Treasurer, Mr Kazeem Bello, were also on hand to lend their support.

They distributed free safety kits, including masks and hand sanitizers, to the evacuees.

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