A GUIDELINE IN RESPONDING TO THE PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY AT THE AIRPORT
The President of the Republic of Indonesia has officially established, through a Presidential Decree No. 11 of 2020 ("DECREE 11/2020") enacted on the 31st of March 2020, that Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) as a disease that raises the emergency of public health. As a result, the Government of the Republic of Indonesia (the "Government") is obliged to take countermeasures in the form of quarantine, as mandated under Law No. 6 of 2018 on Health's Quarantine Act (the "Law 6/2018"). Following the enactment of a DECREE 11/2020, the Government then issued Government Regulation No. 21 of 2020 on large-scale social restrictions to accelerate the handling of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) ("PP 21/2020").
How it affects the aviation industry?
Generally, article 5 of Law 6/2018 states that the health quarantine should be conducted by the Government at the entrance facilities as well as in the region. At the entrance facilities, quarantine should be undertaken in ports, airports, and cross border state posts. In contrast, quarantine in the region can be conducted in the form of a house quarantine, hospital quarantine, territorial quarantine, or large-scale social restrictions. In essence, this countermeasure taken by the Government aims to reduce the spread of COVID-19 at the national level. Please be noted, quarantine at the airport under Law 6/2018 does not mean that the airport is temporarily closed, but stricter rules should be applied to avoid the spread of COVID-19 through air transport.
As we have elaborated on the above, the Government should undertake a quarantine at the airport. Below are key provisions that should take into account by the airlines and airport operators during this public health emergency:
First, the general aircraft declaration of health must be present at all times by the pilot-in-command to the health quarantine officials. Although there is no specific provision regarding the format nor the details of the general declaration of health under Indonesian law, the International Civil Aviation Organization (the "ICAO") has provided a standard format for general health declaration in Appendix 1 of ICAO Health-Related Guidelines. Such a general declaration should contain a list of names or seats of the passengers who may be suffering from infectious diseases (a fever with a temperature of 38 C or higher associated with particular symptoms). Additionally, the ICAO has also provided a public health passenger locator card, which should be completed by the passenger to enable public health authorities to trace passengers who are or may be exposed to a communicable disease.
The health quarantine officials then must examine the general health declaration presented by the pilot-in-command before the aircraft disembarking passengers. The health quarantine officials will use the general health declaration as a basis to issue an approval/disapproval for the pilot-in-command to disembark the passengers from the aircraft.
Second, the aircraft is automatically in the status of quarantine when the aircraft is:
- coming from a contaminated regional airport;
- there was a life or death that allegedly contaminated; and/or
- persons and/or goods allegedly exposed onboard.
If the aircraft is in the status of quarantine due to one or more conditions on the above, the aircraft needs to be isolated, disinfected, decontaminated, etc. (as may be required by the health quarantine officials) before disembarking the passengers. The captain of the flight is responsible for reporting to the control tower at the designated airport if he/she suspects one or more conditions on the above are met. With regard to aircraft isolation, the International Civil Aviation Organization (the "ICAO") regulates that a designated parking position should be provided at the aerodrome for an aircraft that is known or believed needs isolation. Further, the ICAO recommends that the isolated parking position should be located at the maximum distance practicable and never less than 100 meters from other parking positions, buildings, or public areas, etc. The isolated parking position should not also be located over underground utilities such as gas, aviation fuel, electrical, and communication cables.
If the aircraft needs disinfection, it should be performed following the methods and standards recommended by the World Health Organization (the "WHO"). The health quarantine officials in the country of arrival should accept and permit passengers and crew to disembark from the aircraft if disinfection has been properly performed following the WHO standard.
The pilot-in-command is obliged to complete the quarantine documents before the flight departure. However, Law 6/2018 does not explicitly provide the format nor minimum details that should be covered in the quarantine documents in question. Further, the Law 6/2018 does not explain whether this quarantine documents in question is the same as an aircraft general health declaration in the previous article. It is advisable for the Government to provide one standard format quarantine document that must be prepared by the pilot-in-command for the sake of certainty.
In addition to that, airport operators also play a significant role in preventing the spread of the virus because airport operators are the first person who is in-contact with passengers. Airport operators are expected to monitored passengers' health conditions during check-in, passenger inspections before boarding the aircraft, as well as immigration to find out whether there is a possibility of an infectious disease. Nevertheless, the safety of everyone on board and at the airport should remain a priority for all airport operators and airlines.