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SLCAA engages Transport & Health Ministries on safety at airport

The Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority (SLCAA) has on Tuesday July 7, 2020 engaged the Ministries of Transport and Aviation and Health and Sanitation on the necessary safety and public health measures that have been put in place for the reopening of the Freetown International Airport.

The goal of the meeting was to discuss and address key emerging issues regarding the reopening of the airport to commercial flight operations.

SLCAA Director-General, Moses Tiffa Baio said the industry held series of stakeholder engagements with the National COVID-19 Response Centre (NaCOVERC) and the health ministry for the smooth reopening of the airport.

According to him, the team resolved in developing air travel process guide, which would inform passengers, who intended travelling to Sierra Leone, on public health measures at the airport.

“During the meeting with NaCOVERC, we developed a policy brief with recommendations for the attention of the Presidential Taskforce. We have proposed that COVID-19 testing be conducted at the airport, and NaCOVERC has agreed to provide us with a mobile laboratory. The objective was to have a testing system that would be effective, efficient, and resilient to prevent a probable COVID-19 resurgence,” he stated.

He said what they needed from the health ministry is to provide training for frontline workers, fumigate the airport, review passenger Health Locator Forms and set up the mobile testing system at the airport.

He encouraged the team to consider the Rwandan model which basically involved PCR testing before arrival at FNA, and a Resistance Temperature Detector (RTD) test would follow upon arrival, and results produced within 24hrs.

While assuring that all other health protocols as directed by WHO would be observed, Mr. Baio confirmed that IOM and Africell had agreed to provide walk-through disinfectant channels and cargo disinfection machines at the arrival section of the airport.

Responding, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation II, Dr. Amara Jambai noted that collaboration was the key to achieve great results.

“The hallmark of this inter-ministerial success is to flawlessly work in close collaboration with all parties involved to ensure activities are properly coordinated. Things are happening very fast and Sierra Leone cannot be isolated to such progress. The airport is the face of Sierra Leone to the outside world so we must ensure that all the necessary measures have been in place to avoid public outcry. We will work with Professor Gevao to ensure the mobile testing system is set up speedily,” he assured.

Also speaking, Minister of Transport, Kabineh Kallon informed the gathering on the ECOWAS mandate to reopened all sub-regional airport to scheduled commercial flight operations. He, however, stated that the goal to reopen the country’s airspace could not be achieved without the close collaboration of MTA, the aviation industry, and the health ministry.

According to him, President Julius Maada Bio would pronounce the reopening of the airport when all procedures have been followed.

He disclosed that Africell Mobile Company had offered to provide a mobile application that would trace and track passengers when the need arises.

Chief Medical Officer, Rev Dr. Timothy Samba, advised the team to observe collaboration, consistency, conformity, and commitment to achieve a positive result, adding that the ministry should have an office space at the airport to coordinate daily activities for prompt compliance.

He added that the testing system should have some form of quality control and adequate personnel should also be stationed at the airport for effective monitoring and service delivery.

Director of Health Emergency and Security, Dr. Mohamed Vandi, spoke about the eagerness to reopen the airport given the numerous public concerns. He raised concerns on three keys areas: digitalising the Passenger Locator Forms to expedite the process, swabbing before going through Immigration to prevent passengers from escaping the rest of the process, and releasing test results without further delay.

He concluded by assuring that Infection, Prevention, and Control (IPCs) for the training of all frontline workers and for disinfection were ready.

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