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Nigeria impounds British plane caught breaking coronavirus flight ban rules

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Passenger flights into the country are currently banned, with the exception of ones to evacuate people or repatriate Nigerian citizens.The ban has been in place for weeks and will remain in place until at least June 4.

Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika said on Twitter on Sunday that a plane had been impounded after the rules were broken.

Sirika said a UK company “was given approval for humanitarian operations but regrettably we caught them conducting commercial flights”.

The message added: “The craft is impounded, crew being interrogated.

“There shall be maximum penalty.”

Flights for essential services, such as the delivery of food supplies and items for humanitarian use, are permitted.

James Oduadu, an aviation ministry spokesman said that the plane was operated by a company called FlairJet, Reuters reports.

FlairJet, a British private charter company that is an affiliate of Flexjet, in a statement said the matter was an “evolving situation”.

“We are continuing to respectfully work with the Nigerian authorities to resolve this situation,” it said.

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The news comes after clusters of mysterious deaths have been reported by authorities in Nigeria.

The deaths have sparked fears the victims may have been unrecorded coronavirus patients.

Health chiefs initially put the deaths down to diseases such as diabetes, hypertension or malaria but now believe coronavirus could be the real killer.

The sharp increase in the number of mostly unexplained deaths in northern Nigeria raises fears of a large spread of COVID-19.

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In the past month, Kano has witnessed hundreds of deaths, especially among the elderly.

Kano state officially registered 666 infections and 32 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday.

Kano state holds Nigeria’s second largest outbreak of COVID-19, after the capital Lagos in the south of the country.

Kano is he most populous city in the north with nearly 10 million people.

Ibrahim Musa, a doctor in the region, said: “When Kano sneezes, the whole of the North catches the flu.

“We cannot deny the fact that the COVID-19 is wreaking havoc in Kano and the region, but the other epidemics that preceded this pandemic add further complications to the management of this crisis.”

The number of tests carried out, particularly in the north, is insignificant.

In the region, relatives typically bury the dead just hours after their death, without the possibility of autopsies due to religious reasons.

Authorities must therefore conduct “verbal autopsies”, asking families about the symptoms before they die.

The centres of mysterious deaths are now multiplying in neighbouring states: Jigawa, Yobe and recently in the city of Azare, in the state of Bauchi, where a team of epidemiologists was sent after the deaths of 110 people.

Thousands of street children were sent back to their villages at the start of the containment phase.

This has raised fears that they may have spread the coronavirus across all neighbouring states.

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