Nigeria restarts domestic flights amid easing coronavirus restrictions

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Nigeria resumed domestic flights on Wednesday after a hiatus of around three months as Africa’s most populous country relaxes restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus.

The airports for the capital, Abuja, and commercial hub Lagos reopened for flights. A handful of other airports will open on July 11 and the remainder of airports will resume flights on July 15.

The resumption of flights is the latest step by the government to reopen Africa’s biggest economy, which has also been hit hard by low oil prices. In recent weeks it has lifted a ban on interstate travel, allowed some pupils to return to school and permitted places of worship to open.

A Reuters witness said passengers waiting to enter the airport in the capital, Abuja, used markings on the floor to observe social distancing and some used newly installed handwashing facilities outside the building. Only a relatively small number of people were waiting to travel.

Other safety measures in place included airport workers taking the temperature of passengers and spraying bags with decontamination fluids.

“We are not out to punish anybody. We are interested in their wellbeing that is why we have put all of these things in place, and so we expect them to please abide by all of these procedures,” said Henrietta Yakubu, a spokeswoman for the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, on Tuesday as authorities prepared for flights to restart.

No date has been given for the resumption of international flights.

Despite efforts to kickstart the economy, health officials have expressed fears that the outbreak in Africa’s most populous country might become much worse.

Nigeria had confirmed nearly 30,000 coronavirus cases and 669 deaths by late on Tuesday, with little sign of the outbreak slowing.