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Ebola Saga: Sanctioned Airline Pleads For Lifting Of Ban
By Abiose Adelaja Adams
The management of Asky Airline, which was sanctioned for flying in Nigeria’s first ever Ebola victim, has pleaded with the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, to lift the ban on its flight operations.
In a statement signed by Yissehak Zewoldi, the airline’s director general expressed shock at the ban on its flights, saying it had since the outbreak of the virus shown some measure of concern but is now putting stricter measures in place so as to meet up with international best practices in preventing further spread of Ebola virus disease.
The NCAA had suspended the flight operations of the Lome-based airline on Monday for flying into Lagos the Liberian, Patrick Sawyerr, who died on Friday from the Ebola virus disease.
This, the NCAA said, constituted negligence on the airline’s part and its contrary to the provision of Article of the Chicago Convention of 1994 and International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO, regulations which state that airlines agree to take effective measures to prevent the spread of communicable diseases such as cholera, smallpox, yellow fever and other plagues.
The NCAA also explained that the airline’s manager in Nigeria could not offer sufficient explanation on the incident or provide a guarantee that it could prevent a reoccurrence.
The airline, however, has said it has taken adequate measures to prevent such a reoccurrence.
“Two letters have been written to the Director General of NCAA on the measures we have taken to prevent the spread of the virus in collaboration with the local civil aviation authority in Lome – Togo,” said Zewodi.
The measures include suspending all flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia, stopping the uplifting of food from Conakry, Guinea, and the screening of passengers departing from Conakry before boarding.
Other measures are deploying medical professionals at the Lome airport in collaboration with the Togolese ministry of Health, the civil aviation and airport authorities.
In addition, Zewoldi said that ASKY has fully distributed sanitary materials, including gloves, disinfectant liquids, respiratory and mouth nets to all crew members and ground operations staffs in order to prevent any contamination.
“This travelling restriction is currently seriously affecting passengers within the region so we want NCAA to reconsider its position,” he said.
The airline is an important player in East, West and Central Africa, operating 80 flights into Lagos and Abuja weekly.
The coming Sawyerr to Lagos puts millions of Lagosians at immediate risk of the deadly Ebola disease which has killed up to 672 people across Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia since February.
Nigeria is not the only West African country affected by Sawyerr’s trip as the deceased had transited through Lome, Togo, where he changed flight and it stopped over in Accra to airlift possible Ghanaian passengers.
Late Sawyerr was said to have become sick during his trip; vomiting, stooling and eventually collapsing at the Lagos airport from where he was rushed to a private hospital.