The Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority (SLCAA), the International Organization on Migration, the Ministry of Transport and Aviation (MTA) and other stakeholders have conducted final simulation exercise ahead of the resumption of commercial flight operations at the Freetown International Airport (FNA).
The airport simulation exercise was designed to test the level of compliance of the travelling public at the Freetown International Airport and the response of frontline workers in an emergency situation with a key focus on capabilities of emergency systems, procedures, and mechanisms to respond to public health emergencies.
In his statement, the Minister of Transport and Aviation Hon. Kabineh Kallon described the process as a very good experience for both the SLCAA Staff and the SLAA. While thanking the Westminster Aviation Security Services (WASS) on their display of alertness throughout the exercise, he further mentioned that more emphasis should be put on health instructions and regulations geared towards combating the pandemic. He assured all of the government’s support to boost the security level by effectively monitoring all movements in and around the airport.
The Director-General of SLCAA, Moses Tiffa Baio noted that the final simulation exercise stemmed from the government’s recent travel advisory. He appraised the effort of all frontline staff and added further that the success of the exercise was due to a close collaboration with NaCOVERC, IOM, WHO, etc and the business restart training that was conducted for all frontline workers at FNA. Given the outcome of the exercise, he was convinced that it was safe to fly again as all the necessary public health structures for testing, screening, and isolating had already been put in place.
The National COVID-19 Emergency Response Centre (NaCOVERC) representative, Steven Ngawuja informed the gathering that there had been a series of stakeholder consultations between NaCOVERC and the SLCAA which resulted in lots of planning and reforms. *“We are here to experience the implementation of all the planning that we have had over the past four weeks. At NaCOVERC, our goal is to save lives as well as economic livelihood and the safe reopening of the airport falls within our scope. I assure you all of NaCOVERC’s support in the smooth reopening of FNA,”* he said.
The Project Manager of IOM, Kunikazu Akao commended the efforts put together to enhance the effectiveness in the fight against the COVID-19 as countries prepare to reopen their airports. He noted that though the process may not be 100% perfect, it is nonetheless worthy of commendation. He maintained that the exercise would create the opportunity for stakeholders to learn by identifying gaps and later discuss possible ways to fix those procedures that were not considered.
The Health Security and Emergency Lead for the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Charles Njuguna expressed delight in the entire process as the country prepares to reopen its airspace to commercial flight operations. He noted his impression by the numerous efforts put in place by stakeholders at the airports which showed the level of readiness on the part of everyone for the reopening process, though there are yet some other areas to be strengthened in that direction. He further admonished stakeholders to work towards reducing the time involved especially for arriving passengers.