By Harrison Arubu
New York, July 18, 2020
Another flight evacuating Nigerians stranded in the United States due to the coronavirus pandemic has departed for Abuja.
The fully booked plane, with 324 passengers on board, including: 121 Males, 173 females and 30 infants, left the Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, on Friday night at 23:27hrs .
It is expected to arrive the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, this Saturday afternoon at about 15:35hrs .
This 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 travelers were screened for COVID-19 symptoms and subjected to other monitoring requirements, including presentation of their coronavirus test results.
As usual, 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, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that three persons were denied boarding for failing to present their COVID-19 test results.
NAN recalls that 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 going to Abuja. Yet another flight on July 31st would land at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos.
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.
With the consular officials at the airport was Dr Philip Ozuah, a nationally-recognised U.S.-based Nigerian medical doctor and Chief Executive Officer of Montefiore Medical Centre, New York.
Ozuah told NAN he was there in solidarity with the consular officials for “the amazing evacuation operations”.
Some executive members of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Americas (NIDOA) 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.