By ANDREW FANASIA
RESIDENTS of Panatina Ridge (Tanakake) in east Honiara say they are living in a state of panic and confusion following the arrival and self–quarantined of seven New Zealand (NZ) nationals at the New Zealand High Commission Residence on Monday.
The seven were part of a small number of New Zealand Government officials who had arrived in the country on board a New Zealand Defence Force flight earlier this week – after being repatriated back to New Zealand prior to the Solomon Islands being declared a state of emergency.
Residents said that they were shell-shocked late Monday afternoon upon seeing a convoy of police vehicles and private buses escorting what they later learnt were expats to the High Commission residential area – located inside the community.
“We are living in a state of panic, shock, and confusion,” resident Chris Maelaua told the Solomon Star.
“There was no awareness by health officials, police, or even the New Zealand High Commission office of the arrivals and that they would be quarantined here,” he added.
“This is no quarantine site – whatever happened to all diplomats being quarantined at the hotels or the quarantine sites?”
Maelaua said that they only learnt of the arrivals from security guards – who themselves claimed to have been confused.
“We were only told of this by the security guards who were manning the premises and the cleaners who were told to stop work.
“We are still in a state of emergency and responsible authorities should at least have the courtesy of informing the community about the arrivals, how we should react in avoiding any unnecessary state of panic or fear like we are now facing,” Maelaua said.
Fellow resident Ronnie Sade said that the distance between the High Commission residence and their house is very close – saying it’s merely three meters.
“Our house and that of which one of the quarantined families are residing at is not really far.
“We are only separated by a fence.
“Fortunately COVID-19 is not airborne otherwise we would all be infected, supposedly any of the New Zealanders carry the virus,” Sade said.
He, however, said that the risks are still too high, adding that many of the residents are continuously living in panic and fear.
Similar sentiments were echoed by other residents of the community – some even posted on social media, questioning responsible authority’s lack of public awareness, and calling for the transfer the New Zealanders to quarantine sites.
“These diplomats should be transferred to assigned quarantine sites immediately because we are scared, our children are scared – the entire community is scared of the risks that the COVID-19 pandemic may pose to all of us,” Maelaua said.
When contacted, quarantine camp manager and senior government officer Karl Kuper said this is a diplomatic arrangement.
Meanwhile, a statement from the New Zealand government stated that a number of steps were taken with the flight ensuring that Solomon Islands entry requirements were met and that the integrity of border and health processes were maintained.