Airnorth to Continue Dili-Darwin Leg Three Times a Week, Under new Agreement

Airnorth to Continue Dili-Darwin Leg Three Times a Week, Under new Agreement

The agreement will see Airnorth continue flying in and out of Dili three times a week. (Image/Airnorth)

DILI, 9 April 2020 (TATOLI) – Airnorth will continue flying emergency supplies, including medicines, into Timor-Leste, even after Monday’s border closure, the government has announced.

Under the accord signed Tuesday between the airline and Transport Minister, José Agostinho da Silva, Airnorth will operate three flights per week between Dili and Darwin.

The service is Timor’s only link with Australia, and crucially, has been carrying samples from Dili to a laboratory in Darwin to verify Covid-19 test results.

“There is nothing more important than the health and security of our people,” Minister da Silva said.

Under a decree passed this week, entry will be banned to citizens of every country from Monday (April 13), in strict measures aimed at reducing the spread of Covid-19.

“The government of Timor-Leste has taken concrete measures to protect the Timorese people and guarantee the security of our nation,” the minister said.

Mr da Silva said shutting down all flights would be the wrong move for the country at this time.

“Cessation of all flights here will make Timor-Leste become isolated, without connectivity with the rest of the world,” he warned.

Australia’s Ambassador to Timor-Leste reminded anyone thinking of flying or transiting through Darwin that strict quarantine measures apply.

The Northern Territory has some of the strictest restrictions in the country. “Non-essential” travellers must undergo 14 days quarantine in a hotel, at their own expense; and fines of $1,100 (USD $677) apply for anyone caught leaving the site.

Local and Federal police, and Australian Army personnel are controlling the NT borders. Non-residents, such as Timorese seasonal workers, can apply for a 48 hour transit permit.

Grounded planes at Birmingham International airport in the US, March 25. (Image/Reuters)

25 million jobs on the line

The Covid-19 shutdowns are placing immense pressure on airlines across the globe. The International Air Transport Association estimates 25 million jobs could be lost as demand for flights plummets.

Air Timor last month suspended its connections from Dili to Singapore and Kupang, Indonesia. While the Darwin-based airline Airnorth has suspended many of its domestic flights, with 300 jobs reportedly on the line.

“We are grateful to Airnorth for their continued support and flexibility shown by CEO Daniel Bowden, [who] led the negotiations,” Minister José Agostinho da Silva said, adding that law firm DLA Piper was also instrumental in providing advice for the agreement, pro bono.

A spokesman from Airnorth told the Northern Territory News the flights will operate on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

“The service aims to reconnect Timor-Leste will essential medical supplies, medical patient transport, and the provision of essential goods and services,” he said.

Timor-Leste has confirmed one case of Covid-19, and entered a State of Emergency on 28 March, with several restrictive measures.

Journalist: Antónia Gusmão

Editors: Robert Baird, Julia Chatarina


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