Guyana gears up to reopen airports on October 12
The Official Gazette of Guyana published on Wednesday has confirmed the government’s intent to reopen the two international airports to commercial flights on October 12.
Stabroek News first reported that the current COVID-19 measures restricting travel will continue until October 12 when new directives are scheduled to be announced as government is currently in discussions with stakeholders to prepare for on-arrival testing for the virus and other measures for a swift reopening to scheduled commercial travel.
“The (Guyana Civil Aviation Authority) GCAA, CJIA, the Ministry of Health and the COVID-19 Task Force, along with us are engaged in discussions with all of the necessary stakeholders. Since the last directives were issued by GCAA, we are now aware that in country, we have capacity for testing on arrival. Those kind of finer details are being fine-tuned along with the airlines’ readiness to recommence scheduled commercial flights. As soon as those are completed, a date for the reopening for scheduled commercial flights will be announced,” Minister of Public Works Juan Edghill, who is responsible for the aviation sector today told Stabroek News.
“We want the airports opened as soon as is practical, ensuring compliance with the international guidelines set out by the Pan American Health Organization, WHO and international guidelines. We will follow all the protocols,” he added.
Stabroek News understands that at least one private sector laboratory services provider, Eureka Labs, has the capacity for on-arrival testing and has expressed their readiness and availability.
The CJIA, sources say, has already identified space which can be designated for the establishment of a sanitized testing area for arriving passengers.
Edghill confirmed that plans are on stream and said that the mechanism for payment for the tests is being worked out.
“We are waiting at this stage, indications from the airlines their acceptance and agreement because the passengers will have to fund that testing on arrival. So the modus operandi of the collecting of the payments have to be worked out,” he explained.
And while Eureka labs has said that its testing results will be available “in a matter of hours”, discussions are ongoing to determine the waiting process for passengers tested.
“We have to determine what happens to the passengers after they are tested. Will they be placed in an isolation waiting room for three or four hours? How will they get meals? What can be done to make them comfortable? A lot of what encompasses the process is being worked out,” one source said.
Last week, and by way a of statement, Edghill had said both the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) and Eugene F Correia International Airport are open to facilitate repatriation flights, outgoing flights, cargo flights, medical evacuation flights, technical stops for fuel and special authorised flights.
However, he stated that government was “aggressively” working to recommence commercial flight operations at Guyana’s two international airports in the shortest possible time, while assuring that measures in place to do so safely would be continuously evaluated as public health remains paramount.
He had noted that several air operators, including Eastern Airlines, Caribbean Airlines, Trans Guyana Airways, Roraima Airways and ExxonMobil flights, are permitted to operate special authorised and repatriation flights to process passengers desirous of coming to Guyana, once they satisfy the necessary health, safety and aviation regulatory requirements.
Giving statistics of operations at the airports since they were closed in March, he said both airports have been able to process over 5,300 passengers on 63 flights arriving from Canada, United States of America, United Kingdom and other Caribbean countries. Added to that, he announced that over the next 30 days, the government anticipates another 2,000 passengers arriving into CJIA and 350 at the Eugene F Correia airport.
He mentioned that engagement with regional and international carriers were then ongoing and added that the government is committed to working with all stakeholders and private sector bodies to reopen the economy to improve the livelihood, inclusive of employment opportunities for our citizens.
Edghill said today that the GCAA will announce the continuation of current measures and when the new measures are decided on, the aviation agency will also issue them. There is possibility that the wait might not be two weeks as if government is satisfied of agreements reached before, an announcement will be made then.
‘Under my instructions, the GCAA will issue new directives for another two weeks, which will continue to facilitate a policy of flights being cleared for arrival and departure under the current guidelines. Which means the guidelines are extended until October 15th. If we can tie up discussions before the 15th October, those will be removed and the new guidelines issued,” he said.