British Airways given permission to transport ExxonMobil workers

…disembarking staff will be quarantined for 14 days

A British Airways Boeing 787 chartered to transport rotating ExxonMobil workers to and from the United Kingdom (UK) landed at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) on Tuesday.

The British Airways Boeing 787 chartered flight at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) on Tuesday afternoon

It is the first time that this type of aircraft, known as a Dreamliner, landed in Guyana. It is understood that the flight is a direct one from Heathrow International Airport in London and was arranged so that the ExxonMobil workers could leave Guyana on Tuesday evening. It comes at a time, however, when Guyana’s airspace is closed to commercial air traffic as a result of COVID-19.
Director of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Egbert Field confirmed to this publication that the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) granted special permission for the flight. He also assured that the flight is not a commercial one.

Quarantine upon arrival
According to Field, ExxonMobil has set up its own facility for the workers who are coming to be quarantined for the recommended 14 days upon arrival at the airport. He said that this facility was vetted by the Public Health Ministry.
“It is a change over for Exxon operators out on the rig. It is not a commercial operation. They have been given specific authorisation and specific conditions on how the passengers will be handled,” he said.
“They [disembarking passengers] will be quarantined for 14 days before they even go out on the rig. And those conditions have been examined by the Ministry of Health, [which visited] those facilities.”
Field further explained that at the end of the quarantine, the workers, who he said numbered around 50, will head straight to Exxon’s Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel offshore Guyana, with no contact with the locals.
Meanwhile, ExxonMobil has assured that the rotational workers were medically screened before being transported to Guyana. This is in addition to the 14-day quarantine they will undergo onshore.
“Our health experts are working with doctors and other medical personnel from the International SOS Group, a leading medical and travel security service company, to design and manage the staging area, and have consulted with the Ministry of Public Health and other relevant Government agencies,” the company’s Public and Government Affairs advisor Janelle Persaud said on Tuesday.
Since March 18, the Cheddi Jagan and Eugene F Correia International Airports were closed to commercial traffic, only operating for outgoing, cargo, medevac or specially authorised flights.
Extension of lockdown
Guyana joined several countries around the world in closing its airports to international flights as threats from the virus advanced.
The initial order was expected to last until March 31, but was further extended until May 3. However, Field earlier this week signalled a possible extension of the shutdown of the country’s international airports.
Field had indicated that discussions will be facilitated with the National COVID-19 Task Force and Public Health Ministry to determine whether the suspension will be lifted. However, the likelihood of an extension is high, he said.
As the global pandemic deepens, travelling poses a higher contraction rate, especially from one country to another.
In fact, asymptomatic passengers can fly under the radar and infect other people without any awareness. Major air carriers around the world have opted to cease operations from popular destinations until the virus is contained.
One of the first was American Airlines, which announced since March that it would be suspending its flights to several locations across the world including Guyana in a bid to slow down the rapid spread of the virus.