Flight ban

Government orders a halt to international service as pressure from covid-19 grows

By Barnabas Manebona

GOVERNMENT has officially banned international flights in and out of the country as its latest measure to keep covid-19 out.

This announcement was made last night by the Government Communication Unit, which adds that the ban became effective on Friday last week.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare had alluded to this course of action in his national address on Friday last week when he said, “We are in the process of closing our borders for international flights which is being progressively implemented with a partial lock down of international flight services currently in effect.

“Solomon Airlines scheduled flights have been suspended and will only provide flight services as and when required to support emergency operations and the repatriation of our citizens should that become necessary.

“In that connection, only returning citizens and residents have permitted to enter our country from the Brisbane – Honiara flight. Upon arrival over the past week they have been placed under strict compulsory quarantine for 14 days in our quarantine facilities. There will be no other incoming flights to Honiara.”

According to Government Communications, the ban was effective on Friday last week, although it was not explicitly stated in the prime minister’s address.

The ban comes as welcomed news for members of public, who had been crying out for this measure as early as last month before the country registered its first covid-19 suspect case.

This call intensified since then, with many coming out in social media pleading with government to take this drastic measure.

Last week, the medical fraternity came out publicly calling for a total ban on international flights, saying it should be enforced immediately because the reality is that Solomon Islands is not prepared for an outbreak.

Solomon Islands Medical Association (SIMA) put it bluntly that government should ban flights before the country registers its first covid-19 case.

What remains to be seen is whether this ban is timely enough to keep out covid-19 or whether it is too late, as Solomon Islands waits for results to three out of four samples from the latest covid-19 suspects.

The first had returned negative on Saturday.

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