Cabinet approves SOPE extension: PM

PRIME Minister Manasseh Sogavare says Cabinet has approved the recommendation from the Oversight Committee to extend the State of Public Emergency (SOPE).

Therefore, the Prime Minister said he would be making a recommendation to his Excellency the Governor General to make a Declaration of the SOPE to succeed the current SOPE when it lapses.

Prime Minister Sogavare said the government would then table a motion in Parliament to have a SOPE for a further 4 months to ensure our borders are controlled, and mandatory quarantine and testing can continue unimpeded.

The Prime Minister said the SOPE will lapse at midnight on 24 July 2020.

“If we do not declare another SOPE when the current SOPE lapses, we will not be able to quarantine any person that comes into the country from overseas. All those who are currently kept in quarantine stations will automatically be released to their homes. Anyone that comes into the country by air or by sea will proceed directly to their homes and to hotels,” he explained.

The Prime Minister said the only way we can protect our country, our people from COVID-19 is to have tight control of our international borders.

Therefore, he said the only way we can do this is through another declaration of a SOPE before the current one lapses.

“Our relevant laws that deal with quarantine are not adequate enough. They are both reactive, meaning, a person can only be quarantined after a diagnosis is made that the person suffers from a quarantinable disease or has been in contact with a person suffering from that disease,” he said.

Prime Minister Sogavare explained that we simply could not use these legislations because by the time someone is diagnosed, the virus would have already spread throughout the community.

“The consequences of such a scenario is just unimaginable,” he said.

The Prime Minister said he understands that many are worried about the impact on businesses and the normal way of life if there is another SOPE.

“Let me reassure you all, that the key objective of the SOPE will be to ensure national security, enable mandatory quarantine, testing and contact tracing for COVID-19, including the provision of all services related to our quarantine stations,” he said.

The Prime Minister said all businesses, schools, sports etc will operate normally.

However, he said should the situation change, should we diagnose our first case of COVID-19, the government can act immediately to restrict certain events, services etc. without having to seek legal and legislative recourse or solutions to act rapidly in such situations.

The Prime Minister also reassured that during the next period of SOPE, his government would consider urgent legal solutions.

Prime Minister Sogavare said this include a review of existing legislations to be brought before Parliament that will allow mandatory quarantine and testing.

He said this would be done on any notifiable or quarantinable disease that might also be classified as a public health emergency of international concern without having to resort to a SOPE.

“But, this will take time to do, so declaring another SOPE is the only and best solution for the country right now,” the Prime Minister said.