NATIONWIDE ADDRESS, HON PRIME MINISTER MANASSEH SOGAVARE, MP

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25. 01. 2021

Fellow Solomon Islanders and residents of our beloved country. A very good afternoon to those of you listening and watching around the country and over and beyond the seas. This is my second National Address for 2021.

COVID-19 Case Update. 

My good people of Solomon Islands allow me to begin today’s National Address with updates on COVID-19 cases in the country to date. 

Firstly, I am happy to announce, there are NO new additional COVID-19 positive case (s) since my last address.

In the past two weeks we temporarily went down to 1 positive case for a few days. 

However, one of the newly negative cases had reactivated and became positive again, so our official number of COVID-19 cases remain at two. 

Fellow citizens, reactivation is not new. Many positive people that had become negative reactivate even up to two months after turning negative. We have already seen this in some of our students that returned from the Philippines. 

This is why our testing regimen for anyone that is positive requires a minimum of 3 consecutive negative tests after a positive test to minimize the risk of discharging a person that could reactivate. 

In this regard, I commend our testing protocol which ensures we are able to pick up these reactivations before the people who had turned negative are discharged into the community. 

I also applaud the plan to follow-up all the previously positive people for a period of 3 months after they had turned negative – to reduce any chance of reactivation during this period.

Fellow citizens, we have now discharged a total of 14 previously positive people from the government-managed facilities. 

10 of the 14 people were due for a review and re-swabbing in the past week. I am pleased to advise that 9 of the 10 people had been reviewed and re-swabbed. 

I am further delighted to inform the public that all 9 swabs had come back negative. The 10th person is in the province. 

Arrangements had been made for this person’s review and re-swabbing to be done at the province and the swab will be sent to Honiara for the analysis. 

All 10 individuals will be followed up for another month to complete the 3 months follow-up period since turning negative.

Fellow citizens, the 4 people that were released recently will also be followed up monthly for 3 months to ensure they also remain negative for the full 3 months.

To all previously COVID-19 positive citizens, let me convey my personal thankyou to all and to your families, friends, and relatives for your positive response to our call for you to come for your reviews and re-swabbing. This process is critical in our collective effort to contain the COVID-19 virus at our quarantine stations and ensure it does not go out to the community. 

I must emphasize that these follow-ups on previously positive persons are mandatory. They carry penalties if the previously positive persons decide not to come for their follow-ups. The government looks forward to your continued attendance at the follow-up schedules that had been discussed with you to ensure you also do your part in protecting our country.

Repatriation and Quarantine 

Fellow Solomon Islanders, since my last address, the government had administered 2 additional repatriation flights from Brisbane via Auckland on 17th January and from Manila on 21st January. These two flights brought in 172 people. 

A further 21 people arrived in the scheduled Cargo / commercial flight on 22nd of January. This brings to 193 the total of people that arrived in the country in the past two weeks. 

A total of 425 people were released from our quarantine stations over the same period and are now reunited with their families.

Together with the new arrivals we now have a total of 218 people in our quarantine stations in Honiara as I speak. 

Let me thank all incoming passengers for your continued cooperation and respect for our quarantine and testing requirements. These are set in place to protect our country and to ensure that we can swiftly detect and move to contain any further entry of the COVID-19 virus into our country. 

COVID-19 testing capabilities. 

My good people, COVID-19 testing capabilities has been a main pillar in our success to contain the virus. To date, more than 7000 tests have been conducted at the NRH Molecular laboratory and our Gizo laboratory. We are also pleased to advise that both laboratories have been doing pre-departure testing for people leaving the country to other countries that require such tests to be done. 

COVID-19 testing capability will shortly be in place in the Kiluúfi Hospital in Malaita province and the National Public Health Laboratory. 

Plans are also underway to establish a COVID-19 testing capability at the Taro hospital in Choiseul province. 

Pre-arrival requirements for people travelling to Solomon Islands during the period of the SOPE.

Fellow citizens in order to minimize the risk of further importation of COVID-19 into the country all foreign nationals and returning citizens must comply with our strict entry requirements. These requirements are not negotiable.

For Foreign nationals – All foreign nationals wishing to enter the country must first be approved and exempted to enter the country by the Prime Minister and have their names gazetted. Secondly, they must comply with our strict pre-departure quarantine requirements.

I advise all foreign national that just having your names on the gazette does not guarantee entry into the country. Each must comply with our strict pre-departure requirements applicable to the country you are in.  If you do not comply with the pre-departure COVID-19 requirements applicable to the country you are travelling from, that is an offence and any person committing such offence is liable to prosecution after the quarantine period ends.

For Citizens – Citizens do not require approval to enter the country. However, each returning citizen must comply with our strict pre-departure quarantine requirements before they can enter.

If citizens do not comply with the pre-departure COVID-19 requirements applicable to the country you are travelling from, that is an offence and any person committing such offence is liable to prosecution after the quarantine period ends.

Payment for COVID-19 Tests

Fellow citizens up to now, the government has met 100% of all the COVID -19 test for all persons entering the country. 

This is currently under review. Many countries require all foreign nationals (and some even their returning citizens) to meet the cost of their COVID-19 tests, in addition to also meeting their accommodation and food costs. A decision will be made later this week on charges for COVID-19 test during the quarantine period. 

We will continue to charge pre-departure COVID-19 fees for those that depart from Solomon Islands to countries that require such tests.

Frequent outbound, and re-entry travel by foreign nationals  

Fellow citizens, we will also introduce some control on the frequency foreign nationals can leave and re-enter the country while we are still grappling with COVID-19. Such frequent trips put a lot of pressure on our front-liners all of whom had not had any rest since the commencement of repatriation in June 2020. We cannot continue to allow ‘travel at will’ for many foreign nationals for ‘rest and respite’ while our front-liners have sacrificed theirs to protect this country. 

We will issue a new travel advisory later this week which will specify new requirements on the frequency of travel for foreign nationals that wish to leave and re-enter the country as well as charges for COVID-19 tests.

Vaccines

Fellow citizens the Oversight Committee will be meeting with the COVAX National Coordinating Committee and the COVAX Technical Working Group today to agree a timeline for the presentation of our COVID-19 Vaccine roll-out strategy to Cabinet for its consideration.

I am happy to inform the public that our initial application to cover the first 0.25 percent of our population had been submitted to and had been received by GAVI. This first tranche of vaccines will be targeted to our front-liners.

My government has committed to a vaccine coverage of 50% of our population through the GAVI facility with the remaining 50% of the population to be secured through bilateral arrangements with our development partners.  

In this regard I applaud the commitments of Australia that has announced the amount of 14 million Australian dollars to assist Solomon Islands procure and distribute vaccines, and other countries including New Zealand and the People’s Republic of China that have already committed to support the government’s COVID-19 vaccination roll out program.

I also thank the UN Agencies in particular the UNCEF and WHO as well as well as other international and regional agencies including the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community for their ongoing support to my government.

Donations. 

Fellow Solomon Islanders, my government remains grateful to our donors and development partners including the private sector for their ongoing contributions towards our national efforts against COVID-19.

Over the past two weeks, the government through the Ministry of Health and Medical Services received 200 liters of pure (100%) alcohol and some medical supplies from the Solomon Islands Breweries Limited. The pure alcohol is essential for our q-PRC machines to operate our COVID-19 tests.

Last week Gold Ridge Mining Limited donated 15,000 facemasks and 70 percent alcohol hand sanitizers which are now with the National Medical Stores.

I thank those two companies for their contributions to our national COVID-19 program – despite their own challenges.

Provincial Updates

MOI Incidence – Fellow citizens, in my last address I had informed you about an illegal entry by 4 people from the Tasman Islands to Pelau, in the Malaita Outer Islands.

I am happy to inform you that COVID-19 tests for the four people as well as their contacts on the island have all been negative. 

The four persons are now in the custody of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force. 

I thank the chiefs and members of the Pelau community for the wonderful support they provided to the front-liners during the period the four people were in Pelau. 

On this note, I urge communities across the country’s borders to continue follow the example of our citizens at Pelau who assisted the government contain any possible threat of COVID-19 into the country. 

Western Border – Fellow citizens no illegal entry had been reported since the Christmas Period along the declared emergency zone in the western border as well as in Choiseul province. 

A breach of the State of Public Emergency was however reported and responded to at the Noro International Seaport involving a crew from a logging ship who disembarked the ship and went into the Noro Township market. Despite their being little risk of COVID-19 transmission, the vessel was detained and only released following the owner’s and agent’s compliance with our legal requirements. 

Work is also progressing on the refurbishment of staff houses for health workers in the three clinics along the border catchment area. This work is expected to be completed by the end of this month. All 3 clinics will soon be fully operational and contribute significantly to the overall COVID-19 operations along the border with Bougainville.  

Fellow citizens in Choiseul, Western province, and Malaita Outer Islands, please continue to be vigilant and report any suspicious movements or illegal entries along our western borders to nearest police or health authorities or call health toll free line 115 or police toll free line 999. 

Pandemic Bill 

My good people of Solomon Islands, final consultations into the ‘Public Health Emergency Bill’ will commence this week and will run for the next month.

Provinces to be invited for the consultations, include Temotu, Makira, Renbel, Isabel, Choiseul, and Guadalcanal Provinces.

Non-Government organizations, the private sector and the Parliamentary Opposition will also be consulted. It is the wish of my Government to broaden the consultation base of the bill as much as possible. 

The current State of Public Emergency will end on the 24th March 2021.  It is the intention of my Government to bring the new bill to Parliament to be debated and commenced before 24th March 2021.  

MEHRD UPDATE.

Fellow citizens, today Monday 25th January 201, marks the beginning of the 2021 Academic Calendar. Academic results have been published last week. All Education Authorities are expected to sort out remaining teachers’ postings latest this week. 

May I wish every student, Academic institution and Education Authority God’s blessings in this academic year.  

For SIG Scholarships, the Government has decided that because of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the subsequent State of Public Emergency, all Government Scholarships for this year are for in-country only. Those applying for these scholarships must do so on-line. Scholarship applications close 12 midnight on Sunday, 31st January 2021.  

ESP

Fellow Solomon Islanders, uploading of new recipients of the Economic Stimulus Package into the ESP Website continues this week. 

Assessment and Payments of approved recipients which resumed last week continues this week until all approved projects are paid.  

I reaffirm that funds for ESP remain intact for all approved projects. I also re-emphasise that the source of funds for the ESP is from development partner support plus other domestically raised resources and are NOT from government taxes and duties as falsely circulated.   

Fellow citizens, as we continue our journey into 2021, may we continue to refresh our spiritual strength and faith from our God. 

May He continue to expand our views to behold His goodness and Mercy as He showers us with his blessings and His promise of everlasting love and grace unto us. 

Let me close with a quote of assurance from our God, from the Book of Jeremiah 30:17, (quote) 

“But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,’ declares the LORD” (unquote). 

The last year has tested us in unimaginable ways, but by God’s grace, we travelled that journey together

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 us all as we reaffirm our journey of faith into 2021.

May God bless our Beloved Solomon Islands from shore to shore. 

Thank you all for your attention

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