Nigeria repatriates stranded nationals amid coronavirus pandemic

First group of 265 Nigerians to fly back to Lagos from the United Arab Emirates followed by 300 others from London.

    Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, closed its international airports in March [File: Reuters]
    Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, closed its international airports in March [File: Reuters]

    Nigeria is scheduled to start repatriating nationals stranded overseas by coronavirus travel restrictions on Wednesday. 

    The first batch of 265 Nigerians will fly back to Lagos from Dubai by an Emirates flight, followed on Friday by 300 others from London, the foreign ministry said.

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    An unspecified number of Nigerians is also expected to return from New York on Sunday, the AFP news agency reported.

    "The federal government has commenced the process of evacuating willing Nigerian nationals outside the country," a statement said late on Tuesday. "The evacuees on arrival in Nigeria will undergo a mandatory 14-day supervised quarantine in a monitored environment."

    Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, closed its international airports in March and has only been allowing special flights to repatriate foreign citizens to their home countries.

    The index case of the virus in Nigeria was an Italian businessman who came to Lagos in February.

    Since then the virus has infected 2,950 and killed 98 people, according to official figures.

    The bulk of the infections and deaths occurred in Lagos and the nation's capital, Abuja, prompting President Muhammadu Buhari to impose a five-week lockdown on both cities.

    The restrictions were relaxed on Monday to enable residents to return to work, but with strict instructions to comply with all restrictions and safety rules, including the mandatory wearing of face masks and social distancing.

    The country recorded its highest single-day infection cases of COVID-19 on Monday. A total of 245 new cases were confirmed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), including 73 in Lagos.

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    SOURCE: News agencies