BREAKING NEWS

About 50 passengers turned back in Port Vila, flight cancelled

An Air Vanuatu repatriation flight enroute for Honiara from Port Vila, Vanuatu yesterday was cancelled as most of about 50 returning passengers to Solomon Islands have not received their full Covid-19 vaccination.

Air Vanuatu at Bauerfield International Airport in Port Vila. Photo courtesy of Shiva/VLI

This could be the first group of travelers bound for Solomon Islands that have been prevented from entering the country under the government’s latest measure on full vaccination mandatory requirement.

The passengers include 10 nurses and their 17 dependents, about 10 local law students studying at USP’s Emalus campus in Vanuatu, and other locals including a few Vanuatu citizens who have families in Solomon Islands.

Chairperson of the Solomon Islands Nurses Executive in Vanuatu and executive member of the Solomon Islands Vanuatu Wantok Association, Hillary Toloka confirmed this to SIBC News from Port Vila today.

Mr Toloka said the flight should have left Vanuatu’s main International Airport in Port Vila at 10am yesterday. He was also at the airport yesterday.

According to Toloka, most of the returning passengers did not meet the Solomon Islands Government latest mandatory vaccination requirements which states: “the final dose of vaccination must be four weeks (28 days) prior to the travel date.”

“For the 10 nurses, only three of them have been fully vaccinated, seven have received only their first vaccination.

“Because of this, the Vanuatu Ministry of Health sees that it is not wise and cost-effective to send just a few people while the rest are not eligible to enter Solomon Islands,” Mr Toloka said.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in his Covid-19 nationwide address this week said: “No one from 18 years and older is allowed to enter the country without being fully vaccinated.”

Mr Sogavare said any traveler to the country must be fully vaccinated before entering the country.

“The final dose of vaccination must be four weeks prior to the travel date,” Sogavare said.

When asked today, Mr Toloka said the nurses have now received two doses, and have to wait for another 28 days before they are eligible to travel to the Solomon Islands.

The 10 nurses and their dependents returned to the motel where they have been residing in for the past months. They were accommodated by the Vanuatu Ministry of Health.

“At this stage, it is still not clear who will be responsible for their living, and when they can travel back home,” Mr Toloka said.

The passengers were stopped due to two detected positive Covid cases in Port Vila among passengers from New Caledonia recently.

by Jared Koli

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