The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said recent complaints by travellers to Nigeria over their inability to obtain QR Codes and acknowledgement of COVID-19 test results was due to system failure.
The Director General, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday in Abuja.
NAN reports that passengers have expressed frustration over their inability to access the portal, costs of the test on arrival and other challenges.
Taking to Twitter, some passengers highlighted that they had been unable to complete payment online and, therefore, were unable to board their aircraft.
Ihekweazu said: “On April 20, a system failure by one of the partner organisations supporting the management of the COVID-19 travel portal led to an unforeseen downtime.”
The NCDC boss said the technical failure was resolved after about 12 hours.
He said: “We accept full responsibility for this event, which led to inconvenience for several travellers to Nigeria.
“We have learnt from this occurrence and continue to restructure our systems to avoid future events like this and serve Nigerians better.
“Our commitment remains to protect the health of Nigerians, by reducing the risk of spread of the virus.
“This is why the Nigerian International Travel Portal was introduced by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.”
Ihekweazu assured that the agency would continue to strengthen this process to make it seamless for all travellers.
The NCDC boss said the Federal Government could not regulate the cost for COVID-19 test in private laboratories.
He said: “As the country’s response to COVID-19, the public health laboratories will continue to provide testing free-of-charge for public health needs.
“Nigerians should note that testing is still free in public health laboratories, while testing for personal reasons such as travel purposes are required to be done in private laboratories, which is what travellers are paying for.”
Ihekweazu said the Federal Government had also insisted on a Polymerase Chain Reaction test for international passengers to prevent overwhelming the nation’s health infrastructure.
He said: “So please bear with us, it’s a small price to pay for the future and the health of the country and its people and we encourage you to keep carrying out departure test.
“All travellers arriving Nigeria must have tested negative for COVID-19 by PCR in the country of departure pre-boarding.
“The PCR test must be done within 96 hours before departure and preferably within 72 hours.”
Ihekweazu, however, noted that passengers were required to remain in self-isolation on arrival and carry out a COVID-19 test in a designated private laboratory seven days after arrival.
“This entire process must be registered on the Nigeria International Travel Portal- www.nitp.ncdc.gov.ng,” said Ihekweazu.
He added that one of the key components of Nigeria’s response to the pandemic was testing.
He said: “The capacity for testing has increased in the country, since the outbreak began, from four laboratories to 129 functional laboratories.
“Of these, 48 are private laboratories and eight are corporate laboratories.
“Each State and the FCT have several sample collection sites with at least one molecular laboratory to test.
“Samples are tested daily to ensure results are communicated to the clients, patients and/or managing team for optimum care.”
The NCDC boss stressed that it was, therefore, important that Nigerians utilise these resources to the spread of COVID-19.