Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development (MEHRD) Dr. Franco Rodie said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Be assured that as soon as Cabinet has deliberated or considered MEHRD’s recommendation to evacuate students from Fiji and other overseas countries, it will immediately commence the evacuation process,” Rodie said.
“The decision to repatriate students from Fiji and abroad is a decision only the Cabinet can make,” he added.
He said the repatriation of students will not occur until Cabinet has deliberated or considered the recommendations that MEHRD has prepared and presented to Cabinet.
“The paper will be tabled to Cabinet tomorrow (today),” Rodie said in a statement, Wednesday.
Rodie explained that as a ministry, they can only draft a paper with their recommendations for their minister to take to Cabinet for its decision.
“Be assured that the recommendations were prepared in close collaboration with relevant authorities here in Honiara as well as abroad – particularly with authorities in countries where our students are currently studying.
“There are key requirements that MEHRD and the Government through the COVID-19 Oversight Committee had to consider and to be assured of before the Cabinet paper was prepared.
“This is critically important so that sufficient information is provided for the Cabinet to base its decision on the students’ repatriation plan.
“Key to the requirements is that assurance had to be obtained from relevant authorities and institutions in Fiji and other countries to facilitate immigration and quarantine measures and requirements that students have to go through to leave the countries.
“For example, Fiji has recently closed its borders to the outside world due to the increased number of reported positive cases of coronavirus.
“The Philippines had declared a state of emergency on 12 March and stringent quarantine and immigration measures were introduced thereafter.
“It then introduced lockdown measures which made it difficult for visitors to leave Manila.
“PNG has imposed more recent measures that also control the movement of its citizens to stop the spread of the coronavirus.”
Rodie also pointed out the most important requirement that MEHRD has to adhere to is quarantine and immigration measures and facilities that needed to be put in place by the relevant authorities in Honiara.
He said to bring home 1,100 students from overseas will require sufficient quarantine facilities at locations identified at the KGVI School and Guadalcanal Beach Resort.
“Renovation work at KG VI School has started and is expected to be completed soon – hopefully by Friday 26th of March 2020, to accommodate returning students and or citizens for quarantine purposes.
“The school has the capacity to accommodate 210 students. Guadalcanal Beach Resort (GBR) has also been identified with 68 beds,” he said.
Rodie said on arrival at the Henderson International airport all incoming passengers (students and citizens) will be asked to be quarantined for 14 days in the facilities or centres already identified.
“Therefore, to repatriate and quarantine 1,100 students from Fiji, would take some time and the logistics is complex which requires MEHRD and other relevant authorities to seek additional quarantine facilities.”