COVID-19 second wave threatens airlines

Aviation experts have expressed worry that Nigeria could soon be hit by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic following rising daily cases and the abandonment of safety protocols by states across the country.

There have been warnings of an impending second wave of the virus in recent times as a number of European countries such as France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, Greece, the Netherlands and Italy recorded daily increases in the number of confirmed cases.

Countries such as the UK, France and Germany recently went into a second lockdown due to the resurgence of the pandemic.

In separate interviews with The PUNCH, aviation experts said the implications of these travel restrictions on Nigeria’s aviation industry could be dire, noting that Nigerian airlines and other operators had yet to recover from the recent closure of the airspace for more than three months.

On Saturday, data from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control showed that between Saturday, December 5, and December 12, 2020, the number of COVID-19 cases hit 3,513 nationwide. The figure rose to 4,130 by Saturday night.

The total number of confirmed cases in the country rose to 72,757; the number of discharged persons was given as 65,850 while 1,194 deaths had been recorded.

Fresh fears have emerged in Lagos and Kaduna as Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday while his Kaduna counterpart, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, announced on Friday that he was going into self-isolation as one of his family members and a government official tested positive for the virus.

The Vice President, National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies, Lagos Zone, Mr Yinka Folami, argued that while air ticket sales were important, travel agencies were also concerned about public health.

He said, “Domestic demand is stabilising month-on-month. For international travel, there are restrictions. We should pay attention to public restrictions over commerce.

“This is because international travel is not as stable since there are restrictions. It will stabilise as the improvement of care for COVID-19-infected people and vaccines is achieved.

“It is also important to note that there has been a new surge of COVID-19 infections in America. When the first wave started, it affected demand but we are optimistic that by the first quarter of 2021, things will steady. There is a surge in Europe, America and even a slight surge in Canada.

“When there is a second wave, it is necessary to apply public health restrictions again which would affect travel. There are clear and definite restrictions in Europe and caution in flying to the UK and out; we have been lucky in Africa that we are relatively more stable in terms of the impact.”

For the month of April and June, the International Air Transport Association said Nigerian airlines lost $2.09bn.

Similarly, IATA predicted a net loss of $118.5bn for airlines in 2020 (higher than the $84.3bn forecast in June) in another report in November.

The report titled ‘Deep losses continue into 2021’ also predicted a net loss of $38.7bn in 2021 (higher than the $15.8bn forecast in June).

The global airline body explained that the second half of 2021 was expected to see improvements after a difficult 2021 first half.

An aviation consultant, Mr Olumide Ohunayo, told our correspondent that the aviation industry could recover in late 2021.

He said, “The industry may not recover until late 2021 and that is if the vaccine is successful and we can avoid a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know that almost all the countries are getting into the second wave now. But it is accepted that for all countries, domestic travel may be the first to pick up and thereafter the regional before the international flights pick up.”

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