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

Monday 9 November 2020

Introduction

Fellow citizens of our beloved country, a very good afternoon to all of you who are watching and listening to this live broadcast.

To our elderly, our women and children who are listening in from the four corners of our beloved country, special greetings to all of you.

My good people, on 29th October 2020, the Director General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros A. Ghebreyesus re-emphasised that the COVID-19 pandemic is still a public health emergency of international concern. He urged world leaders and the global community to focus on response efforts based on lessons learned and strong scientific advice.

Fellow citizens, COVID-19 is not going away any time soon, as many have predicted. We must be prepared to adapt to the new normal until such time a vaccine is developed to counter and prevent the ongoing transmission of COVID-19.

COVID-19 situation

Fellow citizens, I am saddened to inform the nation that we have recorded a further 3 cases of COVID-19 since my last announcement. This now brings to 16, the total number of COVID-19 cases registered in Solomon Islands.

Of the 3 new cases, one is from the original group from the Philippines. This brings to 5 the total number of cases from the Philippines. The good news is that this 5th case has now converted to negative. This means that all 5 cases from the Philippines are now negative.

The other 2 cases are footballers that returned from the United Kingdom. This brings to 10 the total number of footballers that have COVID-19. Only 6 of the 16 footballers are still not infected. However, given the nature of the virus, we anticipate more positive among the footballers in the coming days. The saving grace is that all the footballers are quarantine in a separate quarantine station so they cannot infect others.

Based on these numbers, we now have 11 confirmed COVID-19 positive cases from the flight that arrived on 25th October from Auckland. 10 of these are footballers and 1 from Korea. All these 11 cases are still positive.

Fellow citizens, it is sad that most of the positive cases resulted from dishonesty by our own citizens. They lied in their pre-departure assessment forms.

As a result of the behaviour of few of our citizens that opened our country to this unprecedented increase in numbers of COVID-19 cases, my government will hold these people responsible for endangering our people and our country.

At the same time, the government is tightening up the pre-departure assessment form making it a ‘prescribed form’. This simply means that anyone who lies on the form, will be prosecuted after their release from quarantine stations. This Government has tried its best in good faith to bring our people back home but our very own people have not returned this good faith.

Fellow citizens, as I stated before, COVID-19 is not a game. Unfortunately, many of our returning soccer players and some of our returning students from Philippines seem not to realize the gravity of the situation.

By their dishonest actions, they knowingly endangered our citizens and our country. Their selfish actions had increased the cost of our fight against Covid-19 substantially. It has also delayed the repatriation of the many deserving citizens that are still waiting to return home. This is extremely disappointing.

Fellow Solomon Islanders, contact tracing of the positive cases and their assessments have been completed. I would like to reassure all our good people that your Government remains committed to implementing appropriate and strict measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 into our communities.

Field Hospital

Fellow citizens, I am pleased to inform you that the Field Hospital will be opened later this week. Operational procedures and training of staff have occurred over the past few days.

Once the Field Hospital is open for service, all COVID-19 patients that do not have symptoms and are not sick will be looked after in the field hospital.

Other Updates from the Ministry of Health

Fellow citizens while there is increased focus on isolating, containing, and eliminating COVID-19, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services continues to implement the full scope of its services in all provinces and at Honiara City Council and the National Referral Hospital.

The Ministry of Health is currently training doctors and nurses on the updated Antenatal Care Guideline. The updated guideline provides holistic support to pregnant mothers, encompassing care, education, and prevention to ensure pregnant mothers remain healthy throughout pregnancy to improve the health of their unborn babies.  

The Ministry is stepping up its efforts to tacked non-communicable diseases, currently the single largest killer in the country.

Work along the western and Choiseul borders continue to strengthen the health response capacity at the border.

The construction of the Manuopo Area Health Clinic will commence soon with the signing of the agreement with the successful bidder completed last week. Completion of the facility will enhance delivery of health services to the 8000 plus, population of the Reef Islands in Temotu province.

The Private sector had also come to support our fight against COVID-19. The Heritage Park Hotel hosted a fund-raising event for the Ministry of Health last weekend. Thank you to the management of the Heritage Park Hotel.

Solbrew Ltd, provided emergency supply of an essential ingredient required for our qPRC machines to undertake COVID-19 testing. Our own stock had run out before our orders arrived. Thank you to the management of Solbrew Company Limited.

Solomon Forestry Association has again stepped in to fund the full cost for one of the 4 hotels hired by the government in Manila to accommodate and feed our students.  This contribution has lightened the load on the government in looking after the cost of our students in Manila while they await repatriation.  Thank you to the Solomon Forestry Association.

Tourism update

Fellow citizens, despite the active cases of COVID-19 in the country, I am pleased to note that progress work on the implementation of the MOU’s signed between the Ministry of Tourism & Culture with the provinces of Malaita, Isabel and Central are progressing well.

I am also pleased to announce that the Ministry of Tourism & Culture in partnership with the Ministry of Communication and Aviation, Ministry of Public Service , Tourism Solomons and Solomon Airlines have commenced work on a domestic travel bubble policy. Cabinet on Thursday last week has approved the IUMI TUGEDA SUPPORT DOMESTIC TOURISM TRAVEL BUBBLE POLICY. More detail on the policy implementation framework will be made known in the coming weeks.

Police updates

Fellow citizens, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) is continuing its operations at the Solomon Islands/PNG border. Choiseul and Western Province Provincial Police Commanders’, in consultation with the government, have identified Supizae Island in Choiseul Province, as a COVID-19 quarantine facility and Nila in the Western Province, as a COVID-19 isolation facility.

Fellow Solomon Islanders, we have received reports that our local police at the border have apprehended seven villagers from Harapa and Komaliae while patrolling the border redline. The seven villagers have recently come into contact with some Bougainvilleans. The Bougainvilleans have escaped across the border when police approached them. The seven are currently at the Nila Isolation Centre.

Immigration and Police have since provided security within the Isolation and Triage at the Nila station to make sure these people comply with the standard operation procedures (SOPs). This latest incident has shown that some of our citizens and our neighbours are not adhering to our border restrictions. Please respect our regulations.

That said, I would like to also caution those along the border that restriction on movement of small crafts on the Solomon Islands-PNG border is still in force. Any breach of this will result in arrest and prosecution.


Here in Honiara, static police duties on 24/7 basis are currently provided to GBR, Chengs, Vimo and SA quarantine sites by our.

Education

My good people, as you are aware, our national examinations have commenced today 9th November and will go on until the 19th of this month.

Whilst exams have commenced, our education authorities have received reports of leaked examination papers sold by certain individuals here in Honiara. I would like to reiterate the call by our education authority not to be fooled in buying any examination paper sold on the streets.

The leaked examination papers sold on the streets are fake and you will only regret if you fall for such deceitful act by these conmen.  I urge our parents and students to report to authorities anyone who is doing this. Do not be fooled by conmen who are taking advantage of this current situation. It is also an offence to engage in such behaviour.

The Ministry of Education has also advised that the Examination fees for Form 5 and Form 6 have been cancelled due to COVID-19. So, there are no Examination Fees this year.

Let us continue to pray for our students. Allow me to convey on behalf of the government, best wishes to our students as they sit for their exams. This year 2020 has been a very tough year for everyone including our children. Please remember them in our prayers.

I would also like to extend my respect to the parents who have stood by our children during these trying times.  Thank you parents for supporting our children.

Repatriation

Fellow citizens, as you are well aware, repatriation flights have been suspended for an indefinite period. However, plans are underway to repatriate our students and citizens from our regional tertiary institutions.  

Apart from repatriation from the Philippines, the priority will be the repatriation of our graduating students in other institutions including from Fiji and Papua New Guinea. We have more than 1000 students waiting for repatriation.

For students that will remain in their country of training during the Christmas break from December through to February 2021, the Ministry of Education had already approved your allowances to support you until classes resume in February 2021.

The Oversight Committee will submit a paper to Cabinet this week on a proposed repatriation schedule for consideration by the Cabinet. This schedule will cover the period November and December 2020, and possibly January of 2021.

Conclusion

Fellow citizens, to conclude, let me reassure you all that your Government remains committed to its two overarching goals during this challenging time. These two goals are:

  1. To contain, isolate and eliminate Covid-19 and ensure it does not spread to the communities, and
  • To keep the country’s economic engine going, so that economic activity in the country continue to run despite the global economic downturn resulting from the global COVID-19 pandemic.

If we achieve both these goals, our country will become more resilient, and we will emerge from this challenge a more united and stronger country.

Please join me in continuing to acknowledge our front-liners and their families. They are our heroes in our fight against COVID-19. Their commitment and sacrifices had allowed us to enjoy our freedom despite our having recorded COVID-19 in our country.

Our front-liners have and continue to work tirelessly to ensure we prevent community transmission and contain the virus within the quarantine stations and isolation wards.

Thank you, to our dedicated front-liners and your families – this nation and her people deeply appreciate your service.

I must also thank all good citizens for your continuous support. Please continue to pray for the safety and protection of our country and people. We are all in this together. We all have a common global enemy that we must fight together, and together we shall fight.

Let me close with a quote from the Book of Proverbs Chapter 3, versus 5 and 6, as we continue to learn about this disease and how to contain and eliminate it from our country … and I quote:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths”.

To God be the glory, great things He has done.

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

IUMI TUGEDA AGAINST COVID-19.

May God Bless Solomon Islands from shore to shore.

Tagio tumas.

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