Virtually the entire local Fiji community was on hand to greet the plane or return home on the return flight.
The local Fiji community shouted out a welcome every time new arrivals exited the plane. The welcome was accompanied by ukulele playing, high spirits and signs greeting the 48 passengers – most of them from Fiji.
A few Marshallese were in the group, and their families were on hand to welcome them from a distance.
All 48 went into the airport departure lounge for Covid-19 tests prior to being bused to the Arrak Quarantine Facility in a rural area of Majuro Atoll.
They are required to remain in quarantine for the next 14 days. Government Chief Secretary, Kino Kabua, said the group will be tested for Covid-19 on day seven and day 14 of their two-week quarantine.
The incoming Fijians include a team of nurses for Majuro and Ebeye hospitals, educators who will work for the Ministry of Education, College of the Marshall Islands, and the University of the South Pacific Majuro campus, and airline pilots for the national airline.
In addition to two pilots from Fiji, there were two Marshallese pilots who were in Fiji for training and were stranded by the Covid-19 border shut down in the Marshall Islands.
This is the first group of essential workers to be brought into Majuro since the border was closed on 8 March.
Since early June, however, the US Army had repatriated over 300 workers at the Kwajalein missile range. All of the Army workers are required to undergo two sets of quarantine: A 14-day quarantine in Hawaii, with Covid-19 testing, prior to departure to Kwajalein, and a 21-day quarantine at Kwajalein.
The Army repatriation programme had a longer quarantine protocol because people were coming from the United States, which had a serious Covid-19 situation.
Fiji, however, is reported to have cases of Covid-19 only among people in managed quarantine. Fiji’s lack of Covid-19 transmission in the community allowed the 48 new arrivals to come to Majuro without first quarantining in Fiji for two weeks.