COVID-19 UPDATE: NATIONWIDE ADDRESS BY PRIME MINISTER MANASSEH SOGAVARE

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MONDAY 16 NOVEMBER 2020

Introduction

Fellow Solomon Islanders, a very good afternoon to you all.

I am very honoured to stand here again to deliver my nation-wide weekly address.

COVID-19 SITUATION

Fellow Citizens, the COVID-19 Pandemic continues to gather momentum globally.

As of yesterday, a total of 54.8 million people had contracted COVID-19 in the world. 38.8 million had recovered, 15.4 million are still infected and 1.32 million had sadly died.

The United States saw its highest daily total of new cases on Friday 13th November at 187,907 cases for that day alone.  

In the Pacific, French Polynesia has registered a total of 11, 706 cases so far.

Solomon Islands

Fellow Citizens, I am happy to announce that our numbers of COVID-19 positive cases remain at 16 of which five are now negative which means only 11 cases are still positive.

105 people were released from our quarantine stations yesterday.  86 remain in the quarantine stations including the 16 that had tested positive.

To date, a total of 4,500 COVID-19 tests had been performed since we commenced repatriating out citizens and allowed some foreign nationals to enter the country.

We have also assisted 200 individuals with their pre-departure tests  as required by their destination countries. All people that need pre-departure tests, pay a fee to ensure we can replace our test kits.

Ladies and gentlemen, our laboratory regularly send samples of the test results from our COVID-19 testing equipment – qPCR machine and GeneXpert to be cross-validated by WHO Reference laboratories overseas. I am very pleased to inform you that the results matched those of the Reference laboratories.

This affirmation simply means that our testing equipment are performing at the expected level and our laboratory technologists are doing an excellent job in conducting the tests professionally and keeping our country safe.

Allow me to thank our Laboratory technologists for your excellent work and dedication to the service of our country.

All quarantine stations continue to be monitored for compliance with Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) requirements.

COVID-19 testing capability is operational at Gizo hospital. We expect the COVID-19 testing capacity to be operational at Kilu’ufi Hospital in the next 2-3 weeks.

In addition, the Kiluúfi Hospital has made tremendous  progress. It now has a  COVID-19 Triage area in the former eye clinic. The TB ward has been transformed to a COVID-19 isolation unit with 12 beds, a room for minor operations, a delivery nursing station, change rooms and specifically designed support and access facilities.

Four teams are currently undergoing training for staff at the Kilu’ufi hospital COVID-19 unit.

The Director of Malaita Provincial health and his team are preparing a budget submission for other priorities in Malaita province to be considered by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.

At the western province, 7 nationals are completing their 14-days quarantine after making contact with fishermen from Bougainville.

Work on the quarantine station at Taro continues and is expected to be completed soon.

Fellow Citizens, on this note, let me assure the nation, that all funds received by the government from our donor partners for COVID-19 operations including the $15 million dollars from the New Zealand government are being applied to OUR priorities as agreed with our partners.

We have heard of new vaccines becoming available soon. Like all other countries around the world, we welcome the development of the new vaccines and look forward to when they become available to countries as we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fellow Citizens, your government remains committed in our fight against COVID-19. So far, we have been able to identify and contain the virus at our quarantine stations. We will eliminate if from there.

Repatriation Flights

The Cabinet has approved a recommendation by the Oversight Committee to allow two repatriation flights by Solomon Airlines in November.

The first flight will be on 19 November to Kiribati and Nadi to pick up our stranded citizens from both countries. This flight comes at the back of the normal Airline’s cargo run on 18 November which will also bring a small number of passengers that have already been approved and have complied with our pre-departure requirements.

The second flight will be from Manila to Honiara on 24 November to repatriate 144 students from the Philippines. Cabinet has been assured by the Oversight Committee that our students waiting in Manila are in hotel quarantine which should reduce the COVID-19 risk status.

In addition, 3 citizens, 3 dependents of a Solomon Islands citizen and 10 engineers for the 2023 Pacific Games will arrive tomorrow, Tuesday 17th November, from Indonesia on a Chartered Garuda Airlines  aircraft that is flying to Honiara to repatriate Indonesian citizens from Honiara. All 16 passengers coming from Indonesia have undergone strict pre-departure clearance procedures to minimise the risk of COVID-19 infection.

Cabinet has also approved up to 7 additional flights during the period late November 2020 through to mid-January 2021 for repatriation of our citizens including graduating students from Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

The Oversight Committee will determine the scheduling of the flights, depending on the status of COVID-19 in the country and quarantine beds available.

Cabinet has instructed the Oversight Committee to ensure every effort is taken to prevent or minimise the entry of further cases of COVID-19 into the country.

Police updates

Fellow citizens, please join me in acknowledging our Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) for continuing to support our efforts in the fight against COVID-19 in the country.

That said, high surveillance and monitoring at the Solomon Islands/Papua New Guinea border is still ongoing.

Last week, the RSIPF deployed an increase a number of officers supported by Patrol Boat Auki to the Western Border. Patrols on the border redline is also continuing.

Here in Honiara, static police duties are on 24/7 basis as police patrols continue at the GBR, Chengs, Vimo and S.A quarantine stations.

My good people, apart from COVID-19 operations, our police are also gearing up for by-elections on 18th November, which is Wednesday this week.

The RSIPF will support the Electoral staff in providing a safe, secure and fair elections by ensuing the security of the polling stations and counting centres. RSIPF will also provide escort of ballot boxes for the Central Honiara and North East Guadalcanal Constituency.

A total of 589 police officers will be deployed to support the bye-elections. I urge our good people to assist our police in ensuring the elections are peaceful, free and fair.

Bye elections

Fellow citizens, as mentioned earlier, this week Wednesday 18th November 2020, thousands of our citizens will go to the polls for the by elections for the Central Honiara and North East Guadalcanal Constituency.

I have been informed that all necessary preparations are set for this week’s by elections.

Trainings of our polling stations have already commenced and will conclude today.

Final listing of poll workers and allocation to polling stations will be confirmed after all the trainings are done and those identified have received full training.

After the completion of the trainings, all the polling officers will be deployed to their respective polling stations on Tuesday17th November 2020 to setup the polling stations.

Fellow citizens, all polling kits for the North East Guadalcanal and Central Honiara Constituencies bye elections are ready.

As part of our COVID-19 measures, COVID-19 polling kits have also been introduced to ensure that the elections are done according to our standard operating procedures.

My office has also been informed that the Ballot Papers for both By Elections have already been delivered, secured and safely stored.

The Solomon Islands Electoral Commission at its meeting on the 10th Nov 2020 has also endorsed the following in accordance with Section 98 of the Electoral Act 2018.

And that is;

1. The counting of the votes for the Central Honiara and North East Guadalcanal constituencies be undertaken at the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) Headquarters at Rove.

2. That the count will begin at 10.00 am on Thursday 19 November 2020 and shall continue till completion.

3. The closing time each day will depend on a number of factors, including time and security.

Fellow citizens, let us ensure the elections are undertaken peacefully, freely and fairly.

I would also like to extend my best wishes to all our voters and their candidates. Whatever the results let us accept it. Hopefully we will know our new Member of Parliament by the end of this week.

National Security Strategy

Fellow citizens, as you are aware, on Friday last week, I officially launched the National Security Strategy and the National Border Strategy via zoom conference here at the Office of the Prime Minister & Cabinet.

The Vision of our National security Strategy is simple … it projects a ‘Solomon Islands that is safe and secure, where all her citizens are able to coexist peacefully, for a prosperous future’.

The National Security Strategy is the overarching security plan for our country. The National Border Strategy on the other hand expands the border aspects of the national security strategy further, given the important emphasis we put on our international borders and their security.

My good people, today, we live in a world that is continually changing which exposes us to new opportunities as well as threats such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fellow citizens, our national security is everybody’s business.The future of our nation and its long-term security is in our hands collectively. These two strategic documents lay the foundation for our long-term security.

Public Health Emergency Bill

I had mentioned in Parliament on July, 2020, that the Government has commenced work on the development of a legislation to address circumstances such as national pandemics or similar styled circumstances. Subsequently, Cabinet in September approved the establishment of the Legislative Committee to develop the Public Health Emergency Bill and mandated the Committee to have the Bill ready for submission to Parliament in the November 2020 Parliament sitting.

Since the establishment of the Committee, the Committee has developed a draft Policy Document, Draft discussion Bill of the Public Health Emergency Bill and had already conducted consultations in Honiara with Solomon Islands Government Officials, in the Western Province and in Malaita Province. However, when Solomon Islands recorded its first COVID-19 case and Ministry of Health and Medical Services urgently mobilised all its available resources to ensure the prevention of any community spread of COVID-19 into our communities.

The concentration and prioritisation of resources by Ministry of Health and Medical Services to the frontlines has seriously impacted on the availability of officials to allocate time and resources to discuss and further develop the Bill.

The subsequent positive declarations of COVID -19 cases continued to require the full focus of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, thereby continuously limiting the availability of required resources.

In light of the above, Cabinet has now agreed to defer the Public Health Emergency Bill. However, despite the deferment, the Committee will continue to ensure that the Bill is bought to Parliament in 2021. This includes ensuring that the Bill is subjected to the Bills and Legislative Committee processes and other required legislative processes.

Conclusion

Fellow citizens, to conclude, I would like to reassure all of you that your government is managing the COVID-19 situation in the country well.

We have contained the virus at the quarantine stations. We will eliminate COVID-19 from the quarantine stations.

We are confident that barring any new infection, we should be able to retain our COVID-19 free status in the near future.

I am confident that with your continued support we will eliminate Covid-19 from our shores.

The fact that we have managed this situation is a tribute to the dedication and sacrifices of our front-liners  and their families. Thank you to all our front-liners and your families.

It is also a tribute to the tremendous support from all of you. Preventing or eliminating COVID-19 is a task too great for any single person or agency of even the government to do on its own.

It is the continued support from all our citizens that is helping our country keep this virus at bay.

In that regard let me thank every citizen of our beloved country for your support, your prayers for our nation as we continue to fight this virus.

In God’s good time we will stand victorious when COVID-19 is eliminated from our shores.

Let us continue to pray for those in isolation and quarantine stations. Let us also pray for our front-liners and their families. Let us continue to pray from every citizen of our nation that our Lord God will continue to Bless and Protect our people, and our country.

IN GOD WE TRUST. IN GOD WE HAVE THE VICTORY.

Let me close with a quote from the 1st Book of John Chapter 5, Verse 4, … and I quote:

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”

Our individual and collective faith in GOD will give us this victory against COVID-19

We are one people, We are one nation, We are Solomon Islands.

To God Be the Glory, Great Things He Has Done.

IUMI TUGEDA AGAINST COVID-19.

May God Bless Our Beloved Solomon Islands from shore to shore.

…….

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