SICCI encourage Businesses to prepare for Public Emergency Measures

Amidst this time of uncertainty, the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) is encouraging the private sector and businesses in particular to continue with heightened awareness while going about their business, and at the same time prepare their business continuity plans for when Public Emergency measures are in place.

A delegation of business leaders, led by SICCI Board Members and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ms Atenasi Ata, met with Chair of the COVID-19 Oversight Committee James Remobatu, on Wednesday 18th February 2020 along with Permanent Secretary Commerce, Industry, Labour and Immigration Riley Mesepitu, and Chief of Staff Robson Djokovich.

This meeting was a consultation premised on situation where a public emergency is declared, to help the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and particularly the COVID-19 Oversight Committee understand the impacts on businesses involved in moving goods and people – airline, sea transport, land transport including fishing boats.

The business delegation was informed that when a case of COVID-19 is registered for Solomon Islands, the Public Emergency declaration will be made which then triggers various actions to contain the virus to Honiara as a priority.

Out of samples from three suspect COVID-19 cases sent to Australia last week, two have returned a negative result. Should the remaining one come back positive Public Emergency measures will be enforced.

“It is still not clear what these measures will be, but there will be restrictions on people movements into and out of Honiara. Curfews will be introduced. Business hours might be shortened. Public gatherings might also be stopped.”

“Public transport will be limited including movements to provinces. The duration of this shutdown is also not clear. The indicators that will result in ending the shutdown, is something we will try to understand better over the coming days,” SICCI CEO, Ms Ata, said in her message to businesses.

The Public Emergency measures are being finalized to be approved by Cabinet.

“We understand that these measures will be announced by Prime Minister before the end of this week. So essentially, businesses if they haven’t already done so, should be preparing their operations for when shutdown measures are in force, maybe consider paring back to essential or skeleton operations. For big enough or agile businesses, the advice is to now invest in remote or work from home arrangements,” continued Ms Ata.

“We also agreed in our discussions yesterday (Wednesday)that medical services will be under huge stress when the virus is confirmed and person-to-person transmission starts occurring, therefore workers, employers alike should take a good look at their households, and have conversations with their relatives to encourage those not engaged in productive activity to leave Honiara and return to the provinces to tide out the period necessary to contain the virus.

“Travel would have to be soon rather than later, not forgetting of course that there will be inter-island restrictions when the Public Emergency measures kick in,” she said.

Another point of discussion was the question of what kind of leave, is granted for workers in the event of a Public Emergency situation. Permanent Secretary of Commerce, Industry, Labour and Industry, Mr Riley Mesepitu, took the question on notice committing to share what is being developed for public servants.

“Despite the physical absence of the virus on our shores, we are already experiencing the pandemic’s economic ramifications.”

“For SICCI the focus now is to continue to advocate on behalf of members and the private sector, as well as supporting Government efforts in preparing our country, citizens, and public services for the virus and its impacts.

“Advocating in this time of health crisis and domestic economic crisis, means that we will document what businesses are facing including impacts on supply chains, staffing etc, and in terms of the help they are looking for,” Ms Ata said.

“The Government will shut-down non-essential operations in the country as we understand, triggered by the confirmation of COVID-19 cases in the country. When we come to that scenario, the safety of our members, staff, and the larger community is the key imperative and first responsibility,” she ended. l