The Vanuatu Government has spent around VT 5.6 million on its first stage of repatriations of residents and citizens from overseas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department of Foreign Affairs Director, Yvon Basil, says this amount has already been spent just on a chartered repatriation flight from Fiji.
“The only flight that the Vanuatu Government has spent money on was the one which repatriated Vanuatu nationals from Fiji. It was operated by Fiji Airways. We have arranged it as a chartered flight. And the flight cost was around VT 5.6 million,” Mr Basil said.
The flight repatriated around 60 passengers.
Director Basil says the other repatriation flights including from Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Australia and New Zealand, were funded by those Governments.
He says the assistance and cooperation was possible because of Vanuatu Government negotiation with the governments of those countries.
Mr Basil says the reason why Air Vanuatu couldn’t do the repatriation flight was because their COVID-19 risk assessment had shown that it would not be possible operating the flights when crews needed to go into quarantine after a making a flight.
“We approached Air Vanuatu and talked to them about the possibilities to make the repatriation flights.”
“But Air Vanuatu responded that they had made a risk assessment and they advised the COVID-19 Advisory Team that unless the crews were exempted from the COVID-19 quarantine requirements then they could not operate the flights.
“I t wouldn’t be possible for them to operate the flights because after a flight, the crews needed to go into quarantine. And there’ll be no one there to work on the flights.”.
Meanwhile, Air Vanuatu has said it will not refund passengers who have bought tickets from the airline but have been unable to use them due to the COVID-19 travel bans
The airline is allowing eligible passengers to claim a credit for further travel in cases where flights did not fly due to the crisis.