The Lagos State Government (LASG) announced on Friday that it has begun communicating with 6,500 inbound international travellers suspected of violating the Federal and State Governments’ COVID-19 guidelines.
Professor Akin Abayomi, the State Commissioner for Health, made the remarks in a statement on Friday while providing an update on Lagos COVID-19 response activities thus far.
According to Abayomi, 432 suspected defaulters were cleared following an investigation, and 81 confirmed defaulters were sanctioned and penalized by the mobile courts.
He revealed that a review of recent data revealed a considerable fall in the positivity rates of COVID-19 infection in the state from 29 percent on December 21, to 15 percent as of December 28, 2021.
The statement read in part: “It is important to note that indeed this did happen and Lagos State biobank recorded the highest numbers of daily infections in the early part of the fourth wave since the beginning of the pandemic, which is supportive of the fact that the omicron subtype is a more infectious variant.
“The fourth wave started as expected around the beginning of December coinciding with the influx of inbound travellers into Lagos, some of whom we have established were carrying the omicron variant.
“There was a significant increase in case of positivity from 1percent on the December 1 to 29 percent as at December 21, 2021, as the highly infectious variant started spreading quickly in community with a steep unrelenting upward projection.
“Lagos State recognised a typical pattern that triggered all preceding three waves to three things: Seasons when there is increased movement of inbound travellers into Lagos such as Christmas and Summer vacation, on-going waves in Europe, America and South Africa where most of the travellers into Lagos emanate from, non-compliance with Lagos State and Federal COVID guidelines.
“In particular, Lagos State has noticed that failure of airline passengers to observe the mandatory post-arrival testing and isolation always results in importation of variants which then start spreading in community and was the trigger of all preceding 3 waves to date.
“In the same light, Lagos State recognised the same pattern in November and December of this year where the majority of inbound travellers were not turning up for their Day Two and Day Seven COVID PCR tests and this would be the most likely source of the entry of the variant and the catalyst of the fourth wave.
“In response to this civil disobedience of our citizens, on December 14, Lagos State publicly announced the activation of the mobile court for defaulters of mandatory COVID testing for arriving travellers, peddlers of fake certificates and persons refusing to isolate.”
Abayomi remarked that the announcement and activation of mobile court prosecution of defaulters resulted in a dramatic trend in travellers complying with the required Day Two and Day Seven testing, isolation measures, and other recommendations, resulting in almost double the testing volumes per day.
He said, “Many more positive inbound travellers were identified, and many more persons observed the isolation protocols resulting in better control of importation and spread into and within the community.
“Our analysis of recent data shows a significant reduction in positivity rates from 29 percent on December 21, to 15 percent as of December 28, 2021.
“The Lagos State Incident Command System attributes this flattening of the curve and current decline in COVID-19 positive cases in the state to effective implementation of fourth wave mitigation strategies; particularly with the introduction of sanctions which has caused more compliance with testing and identification of positive cases.
“The activation of sanctions consequently led to sudden compliance to guidelines which has averted the continuous steep upward surge of the fourth wave of infections in Lagos State. This has protected the health system from being overburdened, saved lives, and reduced the appetite for government to restrict social activities. In addition, more passengers are being monitored through our EKOTELEMED service.
“The dramatic rise in COVID-19 positive cases seen at the beginning of the fourth wave of infections called for firmer enforcement of guidelines, particularly prosecution of inbound international passengers who fail to submit themselves for Day Two and Day Seven PCR tests, as mandated by the Federal COVID-19 protocols and guidelines.
“As a government, we are determined to halt the alarming trend of defaulters whose actions were responsible for previous waves of the pandemic in Lagos State.
“We have commenced communicating with 6,500 inbound passengers who are suspected of not being compliant with our guidelines established to protect the community, lives and our economy.
“Short message service (SMS) has been dispatched to suspected defaulters in the month of December. A dedicated customer care line and personnel were also deployed to call these suspected defaulters.
“We have also created a dedicated email address to reach defaulters. Subsequently, about 1,000 emails and over 2,000 calls have been received from suspected defaulting passengers.
“To date, 432 suspected defaulters have been cleared after investigation, and 81 confirmed defaulters have been sanctioned and fined by the mobile courts and the process continues until we clear the backlog.
“Disregarding the testing and isolation guidelines inevitably introduces new variants of COVID-19 and constitute a state and national public health and security threat which will sabotage all efforts to mitigate and reduce the impact of the fourth wave on citizens and the economy of the state and country.
“We have started submitting the names of those that do not respond to the SMS or Emails to the Presidential Steering Committee for the deactivation of their passports for a period of one year.”
According to Abayomi, sanctionable offences include failing to appear for the Day Two test upon arrival in Lagos if fully vaccinated; failing to appear for the Day Two and Day Seven tests, as well as failing to self-isolate for seven days for unvaccinated persons upon arrival in Lagos; failing to self-isolate for persons who were diagnosed positive under any circumstances; and possessing any fake COVID-19 related documents, either PCR tests or vaccination cards.
Others include providing false information and contact information on the travel health form, dodging testing upon arrival in Lagos by impersonating as a minor or a diplomat, and corporate organizations that undercut state COVID-19 mitigation strategies.
The Commissioner also stated that travel agents who assist passengers in circumventing travel regulations would face serious penalties.
Abayomi asked residents, particularly inbound passengers into Lagos and Nigeria, to carefully follow COVID-19 protocols and recommendations, including isolation, testing, and vaccination guidelines, in order to assist the government in maintaining the state’s fourth wave of infection.