Experience repatriation of citizens from epicentre using commercial flights during COVID-19 pandemic
Abstract Background During the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries instituted closure of borders from international and local travels. Stranded citizens appeal to their governments to embark on citizen repatriation missions. Between February and April 2020, the Government of Malaysia directed repatria...
|Main Authors:||, , , , , , ,|
|Series:||International Journal of Emergency Medicine|
|Summary:||Abstract Background During the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries instituted closure of borders from international and local travels. Stranded citizens appeal to their governments to embark on citizen repatriation missions. Between February and April 2020, the Government of Malaysia directed repatriation of its citizens from China, Iran, Italy and Indonesia. We describe the preparation and execution of the repatriation mission using chartered commercial aircraft. The mission objectives were to repatriate as many citizens based on aircraft capacity and prevent onboard transmission of the disease to flight personnel. Results Five repatriation missions performed was led by the National Agency for Disaster Management (NADMA) with the Ministry of Health providing technical expertise. A total of 432 citizens were repatriated from the missions. The operations were divided into four phases: the pre-boarding screening phase, the boarding and in-flight phase, the reception phase and the quarantine phase. The commercial aircraft used were from two different commercial airlines. Each mission had flight crew members between 10 and 17 people. There were 82 positive cases detected among the repatriated citizens. There was a single positive case of a healthcare worker involved in the mission, based on the sample taken on arrival of the flight. There were no infections involving flight team members. Conclusion Medical flight crew must be familiar with aircraft fittings that differ from one commercial airline to another as it influences infection control practices. A clear understanding of socio-political situation of a country, transmission routes of a pathogen, disease presentation, and knowledge of aviation procedures, aircraft engineering and design is of great importance in preparing for such missions. Our approach of multidiscipline team involvement managed to allow us to provide and execute the operations successfully.|