The repatriation flight scheduled for 16th August 2020 has been cancelled.

Chair of the COVID-19 Oversight Committee, Mr James Remobatu issued the cancellation notice.

In the notice, the government of Solomon Islands apologizes to Solomon Islands nationals and those intending to travel on that flight.

“The Government made the decision after careful consideration on the global pandemic situation and the need for reprioritization of capacity at its borders to be well prepared to minimize the risks against any potential importation of this deadly threat”, the notice reads.

The said flight was to take place between Solomon Islands, Australia and New Zealand.

The government says they will advise intending travellers into Solomon Islands on the future date of repatriation flights, most likely set for the coming weeks.

At the same time, it is understood the proposed flight to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the 29th of August 2020 has been put on halt.

The flight was to bring in experts from PRC for the Pacific Games 2023 project. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is injecting almost 70 percent infrastructure support for the Pacific games project. With this, the government is hoping that work for the projects supported by the PRC should start in September.

At the same time a repatriation flight to Samoa is the only confirmed flight this month, SBM Online reports. The flight is expected to pick Solomon Islands nationals in Apia on the 23rd of August, 2020. SBM Online reports that Secretary to Prime Minister, Dr Jimmie Rodgers says one of the important factors for the flight to take place is because amongst the students is a female who is expecting a baby soon. 23 nationals mostly students are said to be in Samoa.

Since May 26th to 26th July 2020 a total of eight approved passenger repatriation flights has been conducted

More than 800 plus Solomon Islanders and other foreign nationals have entered the country since then.

However NEOC reports that the repatriation flights have put enormous pressure on the NRH Laboratory staff and equipment regarding COVID-19 testing. At least three tests must be done for each person in quarantine stations.

With on-going flights, staff is running the risk of fatigue, whilst equipment is at risk of technical malfunction. With this it was highly recommended that Sector Committees and member agencies develop individual fatigue and stress management plans.

Sectors or agencies operating 24 hours are also encouraged to develop roster and working in shifts.

For the COVID-19 testing laboratory, at least a gap of at least one week between the repatriation flights and quarantine is highly recommended to maintain optimum operating conditions at quarantine stations and reduce the pressure on health teams carrying out COVID-19 testing on persons quarantined.