From March 1 a negative PCR Covid-19 test will be needed to travel south on the South Atlantic Airbridge (SAA). The SAA, operated by MoD, departs Brize Norton and stops to refuel in Dakar en route to the Falklands. Passengers do not usually leave the aircraft.
On Thursday a Falklands Government (FIG) press statement said, “This is a UK Strategic Command requirement, in order to be able to use Dakar as a weather or technical diversion, as the Republic of Senegal requires that everyone travelling into the country over two years of age, must now have evidence of a negative PCR Covid-19 test.”
The requirement does not affect passengers travelling north on the SAA even though they stop in Dakar.
FIG says this is because “there have been very few occasions in recent years when weather conditions or technical issues on the northbound flight have required a diversion option to be in place and for passengers to leave the plane partway through their journey. However, the southbound flight has seen this situation arise on more than one occasion in recent months.”
In a press conference on February 3, Chief Executive Barry Rowland said: “We are currently looking at the need for tests (for passengers) travelling from north to south. That matter is being considered with the MoD at the moment with a view to bring plans forward by the beginning of March.”
FIG has consistently said Covid-19 tests cannot be made mandatory due to the procedure being invasive. When asked why they can’t make testing mandatory for those in quarantine but impose it on travellers of the SAA Mr Rowland said: “It’s mandatory in the sense that it’s part of a contract. If you’re buying a ticket for a plane you’re not going to be able to buy it if you don’t have a negative test. You don’t need to regulate for that.” Mr Rowland confirmed it was an MoD requirement and will only apply to the SAA. He added FIG “fully supports it because it’s a really good idea.”
Passengers arriving in the Falklands will still have to undertake a 14-day quarantine that is a legal requirement. Everyone in quarantine is encouraged to voluntarily take part in the surveillance swabbing programme and receive a PCR test three times during the two weeks.