Call for Solomons govt to halt repatriation flight from China

9:27 am on 1 September 2020

The Solomon Islands government is being urged to halt a repatriation flight from China, over fears it could jeopardise the Pacific country's Covid-free status.

Solomon Airlines

Photo: Supplied

A flight to Guangzhou City, the first leg in a series of planned repatriations, is due to take place tomorrow.

It is to bring home 88 passengers including Solomon Islands students and around 19 project and embassy officials from China who are being flown in to start construction work on sports venues for the 2023 Pacific Games in Honiara.

But there has been widespread public opposition to the flights and Transparency Solomon Islands' Chief Executive, Ruth Liloqula, said the repatriation should not go ahead.

"The longer we can keep the virus out the better it is for us,' she said.

"Maybe some people can come up with the treatment for the corona (virus) so the best bet for us, with our dilapidated health infrastructure facility and resources, our best strategy is to keep this virus out."

Responding to public criticism about the flights, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said the decision to approve the repatriation was reached after careful assessment and evidence-based analysis of the risks involved.

But the President of the Solomon Islands Democratic Party, Alice Pollard, also called on the government to reconsider its decision to approve the flights.

Pollard said even countries like Australia and New Zealand, with stricter quarantine protocols and more advanced healthcare systems than Solomon Islands, had struggled to contain the virus.

"Comparing theirs to our health system, along with the current level of our preparedness, I must add that we are still highly vulnerable, hence should be doing everything we can to avert any risk of importing the virus," Alice Pollard said.

As well as flights to China the government is planning three repatriation flights for local students stranded in Manila in the coming weeks.

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