Amid preparations for the evacuation of Nigerians abroad due to the raging coronavirus disease across the world, hotels in Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory have refused to make their rooms available for the isolation of the returnees when they eventually arrive in the country.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, said at the briefing of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 on Friday that finding hotels to quarantine the returnees had been a serious challenge because the hotels believed using their facilities to isolate the returnees could damage their brand.
Over 2,000 Nigerians in the United States, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, China and other countries had registered with the Nigerian missions in their country of residence for their evacuation after agreeing to subject themselves to mandatory coronavirus testing and 14-day quarantine on arrival in Abuja or Lagos. Most of the countries where the returnees are coming from have far more cases than Nigeria.
As of the time of filing this report, the coronavirus had spread to 26 states and the FCT, with 1,095 cases recorded across the country by the NCDC. While 208 patients had been discharged, 32 had died.
The new cases were 80 in Lagos, 21 in Gombe, five in FCT, two each in Zamfara and Edo, and one each in Ogun, Oyo, Kaduna and Sokoto states.
Some countries had equally evacuated their citizens from Nigeria amid the raging virus.
Onyeama had said on Monday that the evacuation would commence next week, noting that two airlines had agreed to bring back the citizens at affordable rates. He noted that the returnees would be brought back in batches of 200 but that their accommodation was the next challenge.
But, while giving an update in Abuja on Friday, the minister said the government was facing the challenge of securing hotels where the returnees could be quarantined.
He explained that he sought the assistance of the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, but that the governor could not get hotels in the state to release their premises as isolation centres.
Onyeama said, “The numbers (of Nigerians awaiting evacuation) in the UK alone is about 2,000 and the simple fact of the matter is that we don’t just have the isolation centres, the hospital beds and hotels to accommodate them all.