St Helena is another island that has become isolated due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, and thus has been directly affected by the lockdown decision in South Africa. The weekly Airlink service from Johannesburg suspended all scheduled flights on the 25th of March through to the 20th of April, leaving St Helena to rely on flights originally intended for shipping and charter.
This isn’t anything new for the people of St Helena, an island notorious for being “one of the most isolated islands in the world”.
The St Helena airport only set up shop in 2014, with a 1,950-meter runway that continues up to 300 meters out into the sea. With this set-up, the South Atlantic weather combined with the windy island itself makes for quite the event during any avian arrival or departure.
Due to this risky set-up, the airport only sees smaller aircraft arrival and, therefore, misses out on the influx of tourists that may have otherwise been able to visit and boost the struggling local economy. Ironically, however, with the number of COVID-19 cases drastically rising, this could largely be the saving factor for local residents and traders on the island.
Bramwell Bushuru, one of around 4,500 people living on St Helena Island, spoke live about the drastic changes made in the day-to-day functioning of the island yesterday afternoon.
Bushuru stated that despite the lack of a single confirmed case of the virus on the island, most events have been cancelled, including social and sporting events. This is largely due to the island springing into the preventative stage, with officials wanting to protect an already-small population on an island that is only 122 km2 in size.
About 850 of them (the population) are the elderly, above the age of 65,” Bushuru quoted. “Therefore, about 20 percent of the population is vulnerable.”
It is because of this vulnerable population that all agencies involved with the island are taking preventative measures within a situation that is constantly and continuously monitored.
Following the last flight of 37 passengers onto the island on the 21st of March, all passengers went through intensive screening at the airport and have all been asked to self-isolate for 14 days to lower the contagion risk factor and protect the community of St Helena. If these individuals are found to fail to comply with these guidelines, they may be brought into custody with imposed isolation.
With no confirmed cases of COVID-19 thus far, the people of St Helena are hopeful in that they will be spared from the global pandemic. What are your thoughts on this tactic?