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Travel & Postal

Air travel: IATA releases criteria for COVID-19 testing

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Air travel
A passenger's body temperature is being tested at the gate of entry upon arrival at the Murtala International Airport in Lagos, on March 2, 2020. - Nigeria is monitoring 58 people who had contact with an Italian man infected with the new coronavirus, the health minister said Monday, as officials scrambled to stop the disease spreading. Africa's most populous country on Friday confirmed the first case of the virus in sub-Saharan Africa after the patient was diagnosed in the economic hub Lagos. (Photo by BENSON IBEABUCHI / AFP) (Photo by BENSON IBEABUCHI/AFP via Getty Images)

BY: Yinka Okeowo

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has released criteria for the use of COVID-19 testing in the travel process.

Should governments choose to introduce COVID-19 testing for travelers arriving from countries considered as high risk, testing must deliver results fast, be able to be conducted at scale, and operate to very high rates of accuracy.

Additionally, testing must be cost-effective and not create an economic or logistical barrier to travel.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) published Takeoff guidance which is the global guidance for governments to follow in reconnecting their people and economies by air.

Takeoff outlines layers of measures to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission during air travel and the risk of importation of COVID-19 via air travel.

COVID-19 testing should not be a necessary condition for re-opening borders or resuming air services.

Technology for rapid point-of-care Polymerized Chain Reaction (PCR) testing could be a useful layer of protection for travelers from countries considered as higher risk, potentially removing the need for more burdensome and intrusive measures such as quarantine which is a major barrier to travel and the recovery of demand.

“Airlines are committed to reducing the risks of COVID-19 transmission via air travel and COVID-19 testing could play an important role. But it must be implemented in line with ICAO’s global re-start guidance with the aim of facilitating travel. Speed, scale and accuracy are the most critical performance criteria for testing to be effectively incorporated into the travel process,” said IATA’s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac.

As part of the travel process COVID-19 testing would need to be conducted by trained public health officials and meet the following criteria:

  • Speed: Testing results should be delivered quickly, with results available in under an hour as the minimum standard.
  • Scale: If testing takes place at the airport, testing capacity of several hundreds of tests per hour must be achievable. The use of saliva for taking samples rather than nasal or throat swabs would facilitate this and would also be expected to reduce time and improve passenger acceptance.
  • Accuracy: Extremely high accuracy is essential. Both false negative and false positive results must be below 1%.

Where does testing fit in the travel process?

Ideally COVID-19 testing would be required in advance of arrival at the airport and within 24 hours of travel. Passengers arriving “ready-to-fly” reduces the risk of contagion in the airport and enables early re-accommodation for any traveler who tests positive.

If testing is required as part of the travel process, it is recommended at departure. Governments would need to mutually recognize test results and data transmission should take place directly between passengers and governments in a similar manner as e-visa clearances are currently handled.

Any testing requirements should only be in place for as long as necessary. To ensure this, regular evaluations should be conducted.

Who Should Pay?

Cost is an important consideration. Testing should facilitate travel and not provide an economic barrier. With testing at some European destinations costing in excess of $200, this is a real concern.

IATA supports the World Health Organization (WHO) International Health Regulations which requires governments to bear the costs of mandatory health testing. Where a test is offered on a voluntary basis, it should be charged at cost price.

air travel

Passengers are tested for COVID-19 at Dubai International Airport on Wednesday before departing to Tunisia.

What happens when someone tests positive?

Ideally testing takes place prior to travel or at the point of departure and a positive result would mean that the passenger could not travel as planned.  In this case, airlines have been offering flexibility to consumers. This includes re-booking or refunds in line with the airline’s commercial policy.

Many airlines are offering the same flexibility to passengers who suspect that they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 as well as members of the same traveling party, particularly when they are members of the same household.

If testing is mandated on arrival and a passenger tests positive, then the passenger should be treated according to the requirements of the receiving State. Airlines should not be required to repatriate the passenger(s) or ‘punished’ with financial penalties such as fines or through operational penalties such as the withdrawal of the right to operate in the market.

Travel & Postal

Stamp Duty: FIRS’ actions will kill, bury NIPOST –  Maimuna Abubakar

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Stamp Duty
Nigeria's N50 postage stamp

Chairman, Board of the Nigeria Postal Service (NIPOST), Maimuna Abubakar has express disaffection the (alleged) attempts by the Federal Internal Revenue Service (FIRS) to usurp the statutory right of the service regarding the collection of N50.00 stamp duty.

According to her, the actions of FIRS will kill and bury NIPOST.

It appears that the inter-agency discussions to resolve the issue between the NIPOST and the (FIRS) have not yielded results.

Recall that the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim (Pantami), raised similar alarm earlier in the year, lamenting the encroachment of FIRS on NIPOST’s functions and rights.

The Minister wondered why the FIRS bypassed the Ministry and NIPOST to involve other stakeholders for the Stamp Duty collection process.

In his words: ‘‘They only invited few stakeholders that will support their interest who endorsed it saying that FIRS should collect Stamp Duty but we objected to it.

“I wrote a letter to the Minister of Finance saying that this cannot be tolerated; I also wrote the Senate President on the issue, we insisted on our stand.

“Though, we have no power to change government policy but we have power to challenge injustice and as far as I am concerned, this is one of the many injustices that should be challenged.

‘‘We insist that Stamp duty should be collected by NIPOST and it is an injustice if NIPOST is denied the opportunity.

NIPOST

Maimuna Abubakar

Flip to the tweets by the Board Chairman using a twitter handle @ref_ng, Abubakar recalls: “Section 11(1), 2 and (3) of the Stamp Duties Act 2004 (As Amended 2019) provides that all receipts, documents and registerable instruments upon which duty is liable to be imposed shall be donated using an adhesive postage stamp” and the affixed adhesive postage Stamp…”

According to her, there is no confusion with regards who should collect Stamp Duty as tax is ad-valorem (in percentage) while N50.00 is the cost of NIPOST stamp.

“NIPOST (collects) revenue (on) Stamps since colonial era. NIPOST are the sole custodians of national stamps, another agency printing and selling stamps is against the law of the land.

“What is happening, are we expected to keep quiet and let FIRS kill and bury NIPOST. We need to get our mandate back.

“I am worried for NIPOST; having sleepless night because of NIPOST, we need the general public to come to our aid, FIRS stole our mandate.

“Did you know that NIPOST had generated over N60billion in NIPOST-CBN account for the Federal Government?

“There is no where in FIRS Act or Stamp Duty Act where it’s so stated that FIRS can produce stamp or sale stamp.

“NIPOST is the only agency charged with the responsibility of such adhesive stamp and revenue for purchase of such adhesive stamp accrues to NIPOST and no other agency. See NIPOST (Act) for clarification.

“However, the payment of stamp duties as may be assessed made to FIRS being a government agency charged with the responsibility of collecting taxes.

“There is no confusion, tax is ad-valorem (in percentage) while N50.00 is the cost of NIPOST stamp.

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Travel & Postal

Red Star calls for overhaul of exports mechanism at Nigerian ports

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Nigeria can become a world class exporter of fresh farm produce if the export mechanism at the ports is completely overhauled.

Speaking in an exclusive business session in Lagos, the Group Managing Director of Red Star Express Plc, Dr. Sola Obabori, noted that popular Nigerian foods such as yams and garri can be profitably exported to Europe and America if the hindrances and multiplicity of regulators at the ports can be removed.

According to him, this will not only boost Nigeria’s revenue base but would also give global acclaim to those foods.

Dr. Obabori suggested that the process of exporting agricultural produce should be drastically simplified urgently.

“The export process is far too complicated and should be drastically simplified. Kenya, for example, are experiencing growth in their agricultural sector. The country exports fresh flowers and many other fresh agricultural products into the European markets and that has helped their economy tremendously. In terms of production, Nigeria has a bigger capacity than Kenya. However, with the complications experienced at the airports, our export capabilities are shackled,” he said.

He added, “I am aware that there are various efforts going on right now to address this situation. Red Star Express Plc belongs to a number of reputable business associations that hold regular dialogues with the government to reduce the complexities at the ports. I am optimistic that these efforts will soon become fruitful.”

Speaking further, he mentioned Red Star’s efforts towards providing logistics services to support importers and exporters through the acquisition of new assets.

Red Star

GMD of Red Star Express, Sola Obabori

“We have massively invested in new trucks and motorcycles as well as other essential assets. In spite of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have retooled successfully. We have cold-chain trucks that can move fresh produce from the farms to retail stores across the country. For example, if you run a poultry shop and you are producing your poultry products, we can support your company by using our Cold-Chain trucks to move those products from where they are produced to the retail stores where they can be sold to the final consumers,” the Red Star boss, said.

On the logistics industry and domestic front, the Red Star CEO appealed to the Federal Government to offer a more strategic support and create finance relief that will enable the sector to remain essential in driving trade and commerce.

“The Government should substantially reduce import taxes for commercial vehicles, trucks, and spare parts as the impact of the devaluation of the naira has eroded the purchasing power of most organizations and weakened their ability to replace ageing assets,” he said.

What you should know about Red Star

Red Star Express Plc is a Licensee of Federal Express (FedEx) Corporation, the world’s largest delivery solutions provider.

It has over 150 offices in Nigeria; with international offices in Niger Republic, Burkina Faso and Benin Republic. Its network spans over 1,500 communities in Nigeria and 214 countries worldwide.

Red Star Express Plc is made up of 4 divisions and business units specializing in areas such as Express Delivery, Logistics, Freight, Outsourcing services, Supply Chain Management, E-Commerce Facilitation, Printing and Packaging, E-Archiving, as well as Agro Trade Logistics.

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Travel & Postal

ANCO calls for calm, dialogue amid protests against NIPOST over new licensing fees

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ANCO
President of ANCO, Okey Uba

  • Courier and logistics industry is  the fulcrum that drives economic activities – ANCO President, Okey Uba

The Association of Nigeria Courier Operators (ANCO), has called on operators in the industry to remain calm as the leadership have opened channel of communications with the Government over the newly released regulatory guidelines by the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST).

Nigerians on social media lampooned the NIPOST over the newly released rates/fees for licensing and renewal of operations logistics companies in the country (SEE HERE).

This even led to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami’s intervention on Saturday 25th July, ordering NIPOST to suspend the new tariff on registration of courier services in the country.

Reacting to complaints by Nigerians on the new hike, Dr. Pantami, under whose purview the supervision of NIPOST falls, took to his Twitter handle to reiterate the position of the Federal Government on the increment.  He tweeted;

“Our attention has been drawn to an increase iof licence fees, which was not part of the regulation I earlier approved for you. The Chairman of NIPOST and the Post Master General were contacted yesterday to put the implementation on hold and send a report to our Ministry by Monday”. He further clarified that “the power of regulation of NIPOST lies with the Minister, any change of fees must be approved by him. I know the economic challenges of NIPOST. However, looking at the economic hardship of our citizens, we need to suspend any move”.

“This directive comes amidst ongoing efforts by the Minister to reposition the Postal Services sector for optimal efficiency, in line with global best practices and as enshrined in the Universal Postal Union (UPU) global resolution of September 2019.

eCommerce

Delivery bikes

ANCO begins discussions with the government

In a press release on Monday as obtained by TechEconomy.ng, the President of ANCO, Mr. Okey Uba, expressed the Association’s regrets over the turn of events.

To this end, he said that ANCO under his leadership has opened discussions with the government at different levels to tackle challenges faced operators.

In his words, “The Courier Industry has come under news lately for the wrong reasons especially with the recent Regulatory Guidelines and increase in fees by NIPOST.

“This has generated a lot of furor coupled with activities of other federal, state and local government agencies.

“The Association of Nigeria Courier Operators, ANCO, which is the umbrella body of all registered indigenous Courier Companies in Nigeria had proactively written to the Lagos State Governor and other relevant agencies last week in view of activating and achieving ease of doing business in Lagos State.

“We have also set machinery in motion to replicate the dialogue with other states and federal government.

“We therefore ask all Courier and Logistics Companies including the general public to remain calm. We are dialoguing with the government and its agencies at various levels to entrench a better operating environment”.

Mr. Uba reiterated that their goal is to render a satisfactory service to the numerous clients and the general public while assisting the government to grow the economy and employment base.

​He added that government at all levels should understand that courier and logistics industry is  the fulcrum that drives economic activities and therefore should not churn out policies that cripples our operations.

“It’s always good to consult stakeholders especially practitioners so as to avoid such policy implementation imbroglio in future”, the ANCO President added.

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