The New Zealand Defence Force assisted with a further repatriation flight yesterday of Vanuatu nationals stranded in New Zealand.
CAPTION: Seasonal workers board a Royal New Zealand Air Force Boeing 757 at the RNZAF air movements terminal at Christchurch International Airport, bound for Port Vila in Vanuatu. NZDF photo.
The government of Vanuatu requested assistance from New Zealand to get their citizens home because of the ongoing unavailability of commercial flights as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.
Passengers included more than 100 recognised seasonal employee scheme workers and scholarship students stranded in New Zealand since March.
The flight was also used to return the remains of Vanuatu’s late High Commissioner to New Zealand, Johnson Naviti, accompanied by members of Mr Naviti’s family.
The 119 passengers on board the Royal New Zealand Air Force Boeing 757 were subject to health pre-screening measures before boarding in New Zealand and were required to follow Vanuatu’s entry protocols, including 14 days of managed quarantine.
RNZAF air crews routinely undertake measures to prevent potential spread of COVID-19, including health screening, physical distancing and wearing of personal protective equipment.
Air Component Commander Air Commodore Tim Walshe said RNZAF was pleased to have been able to assist with returning Vanuatu nationals to their loved ones.
“The global COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted normal travel routes, including for seasonal workers from Vanuatu, many of whom would ordinarily have returned home by now,” Air Commodore Walshe said.
The flight yesterday follows eight repatriation flights in June when more than 1000 Vanuatu nationals were taken home after their travel plans were disrupted by COVID-19 restrictions.
Eight passengers boarded the aircraft at RNZAF Base Auckland, with the majority boarding at RNZAF Base Ohakea and RNZAF’s air movements terminal at Christchurch International Airport.