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Air Seychelles' return to the skies remains uncertain amid fog of COVID-19

Victoria, Seychelles | May 9, 2020, Saturday @ 10:02 in Business | By: Patsy Athanase | Views: 8232
Air Seychelles' return to the skies remains uncertain amid fog of COVID-19

The airline suspended flights to its regional network, namely Mumbai, Mauritius and Johannesburg, in late March. (Air Seychelles) 

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(Seychelles News Agency) - The uncertainty of how the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to manifest itself worldwide makes it difficult to schedule international commercial flights, the Seychelles' national carrier, Air Seychelles said on Thursday.

Air Seychelles' Head of Corporate Affairs, Sheryl Barra, told SNA that the national carrier had initially planned to start international operations in May, but this has now been postponed indefinitely.

"Due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 and as the airport is closed, we will adjust our schedule once we have further clarity on the situation in both Seychelles and the outbound destinations where we operate," said Barra.

The international airport of Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, will be opened on June 1 for commercial flights as part of the easing of restriction in place as there is no new COVID-19 case since the last positive test on April 5.

The airline suspended flights to its regional network, namely Mumbai, Mauritius and Johannesburg, in late March following intensified travel advisories, national lockdowns and closures at ports of entry within the Indian Ocean, South Africa, India as well as in the Seychelles in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19.

On Wednesday, the National Assembly approved a non-binding motion calling on the government to keep the borders closed to visitors until the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide improves and an effective detecting mechanism is put in place.

In his remarks, the mover of the motion, the Leader of the Opposition, Wavel Ramkakalawan, said there were pressures from Air Seychelles to set the date of June 1 for the reopening.

"The Health Department's plan was to resume commercial flights in September, but a lot of pressure is being applied by Air Seychelles as they want to resume flights to Mauritius, India and South Africa, because they are losing money. I hope this motion will help the health professionals," said Ramkalawan.

Air Seychelles did not comment on that statement.

In a  question to that effect during a press conference on Thursday, the Public Health Commissioner, Jude Gedeon, said the new Public Health (Infectious Diseases) Regulations Orders of May 4 was explicit about the types of commercial activities that would be taking place as of June 1.

These will include cargo, technical stops, transits, private transfers, people who are coming in to replace crews on a vessel.

"It does not mean the airport will be opened for anyone who wants to fly in or out and we will be controlling the entry and exit points for both people and vessels because they will not be allowed to enter without permission," he said.

Gedeon added that the decision to allow commercial operations to resume on June 1 was a decision taken by a team of local experts but with the guidance of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

"We could say let's wait until the situation improves but when will the situation improve? The monster is here to stay and we need to learn to live with it and master it," said the Public Health Commissioner.

He said that if the situation improves, the health authority may allow "selective entry of tourists onboard chartered flights especially from countries where there are no infections. But we will have our controls such as tests and checks at the point of entry. We will allow visitors back in on a small scale at the beginning. But health should always be in the driving seat."

Earlier this week, Air Seychelles said it will continue to offer cargo services to transport essential goods to the island until commercial passenger flights resume.

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Tags: COVID-19 pandemic, National Assembly, leader of the opposition, Public Health (Infectious Diseases) Regulations Orders

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