FELLOW Solomon Islanders, I stand here with the greatest of humility to update you on what your Government is doing regarding COVID-19 and other related matters.
Last week I stated that by the end of June global cases would reach the 10 million mark. As of today this week this figure now stands at 10 533 779 million confirmed cases globally. The total number of deaths last week was 470,000, today this figure has now increased to 512,842 deaths globally.
The number of new cases each day has exceeded 160 000 each day in the past week. . COVID-19 has now infected 216 countries and territories worldwide. This is the stark reality.
It is my strong conviction that only unity and solidarity will carry us safely through during these unprecedented times.
Fellow Solomon Islanders, that is why as your Prime Minister, I have always encouraged all of us to remain united.
That said, I wish to reiterate my sincere gratitude to all good citizens of our beloved country for your continuous support, collective efforts and prayers in keeping this virus from entering our shores.
Fellow Solomon Islanders, whilst other countries have slowly eased travel and border restrictions within their respective countries, Solomon Islands will not take that risk, until and unless we are certain that this virus is no longer a threat. Therefore, our borders will remain closed. We will only allow cargo flights and repatriation flights when deemed necessary.
With the recent resurgence of new COVID-19 cases in our neighboring countries, security and monitoring at our borders remain a top priority. At our western border, our front liners continue to provide high visibility around the area.
That said, following the Points of Entry workshop coordinated and facilitated by the National Health Emergency Operation Centre last week, 50 front line workers have enhanced their knowledge and skills. This is to effectively coordinate and manage border operations as well as improve safety and workflow through harmonizing Points of Entry Standard Operating Procedure.
Fellow citizens, over 200 repatriates who arrived this week have undergone thorough health screening by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and POE teams. Upon arrival at the Henderson Airport, they were escorted to their allocated quarantine stations.
Four repatriation flights were processed since Friday. The first arrived on Friday 26th June from Nauru with three passengers.
The second on Monday 29th June, from New Zealand with nine passengers (diplomats) onboard the New Zealand Defence Force flight.
The third flight was on Tuesday 30th June and the fourth on Wednesday 1st July. From the flights, 13 were red flagged by front line health workers. One was transferred to Triage for sample collection and testing.
The result returned negative. The other 12 were assessed by health front liner workers at the airport and allowed to continue on to the quarantine stations.
All passengers regardless of their nationality and status are currently undergoing strict quarantine and to be monitored on a daily basis during the course of their quarantine period.
The Government is also working closely with the respective Governments of Tonga and Samoa to repatriate some of our citizens there. We will provide updates on these planned flights when necessary arrangements are done.
That said, allow me to thank the New Zealand and Australian Governments and our other donor partners for their timely assistance in providing PPEs, COVID 19 extraction kits to support the repatriation flights this week.
The medical supplies flown in by the New Zealand Defence Force on Monday this week provided the much-needed support to our front liners for the repatriation exercise.
Fellow citizens, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Australia, New Zealand, Vanuatu and Fiji Governments for taking care of our citizens and facilitating their smooth return.
This has been the largest repatriation exercise so far and I must commend our front liners who were at the airport during the flights this week. Thank you for the courage, commitment and professionalism that you have continued to display. You have done extremely well.
This country continues to remain COVID-19 free because of your commitment and sacrifice.
Good citizens, on behalf of the Government and people of Solomon Islands, I also welcome home our citizens back to our happy isles.
Fellow Solomon Islanders, in terms of camp management, the Government, as of this week, have doubled the number of our front liners to assist the camp management committee. This will cater for the increase number of returnees in the various quarantine sites.
I thank those who have accepted the call to assist our front liners and to help in the management of quarantine camps.
We understand the risk associated with the number of repatriations so we are also stepping up our preparedness around the quarantine campsites.
Fellow citizens, we are also aware of the social issues raised.
However, my simple plea to our returning passengers is that we all have a duty to protect this nation. Therefore, I am simply asking returning passengers to abide by our rules and regulations and be patient with our quarantine requirements.
We cannot let our guards down. We must learn from the experiences from our close neighboring countries. We all have a responsibility to keep our country and citizens safe.
Fellow citizens, on the issue of the Economic Stimulus Package, I understand there have been so much debate going on in the media.
I would like to make it very clear that the Stimulus package is not a free handout nor is it a package for new start-up businesses.
I must reiterate that this package is intended to address the immediate negative economic impacts of COVID-19 and this is the highest priority.
Therefore, the fiscal response require cash injections or other forms of assistance to support sectors, businesses and households directly affected by the crisis to sustain production and boost aggregate demand to keep the economy afloat.
My good people, I am reiterating this to clarify misperceptions that this package is a free handout. No, it is not.
Moreover, I am appealing to our citizens especially in the rural areas to beware of opportunists who are going around selling stimulus package applications or documentations for that matter. Please report them to authorities if you come across such individuals.
I am saying this because we have received information of scammers going around and taking advantage of our people in the rural areas during these trying times. This is not the time to take advantage of people’s ignorance. We should be working together, not taking advantage of people or the situation.
That said, as you are aware, the deadline for provincial applications have been extended to Friday 24 July 2020.
Fellow citizens, earlier this week, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services conducted two more in country COVID-19 tests on a mother and her child. The mother and child were in Bougainville to attend a funeral and returned to Gizo. Samples were immediately collected in Gizo after they showed flu like symptoms and was flown to Honiara for testing. Both test results returned negative. Both the mother and her child together with other family members who returned from the funeral are now under quarantine for 14 days.
The Ministry of Health and Medical Services will continue to monitor their daily health status as per the standard operating procedures.
Also this week, the National Health Emergency Operation Centre has responded to a request by the Western Provincial Authority. Three senior doctors were sent to Gizo Hospital to support the Western Province in assessment and work place training. More support is planned and it will be based on assessment reports.
The Ministry of Health and Medical Services risk, communication and surveillance teams have also commenced relevant awareness especially for communities living close to sites where returning diplomatic officials and workers are currently being quarantined. This is to keep our communities well informed of the risk levels and from having any fear or anxiety.
My good people, also this week, accessories for our COVID-19 testing machines, the qPCRs, have arrived which included, 1000 extraction kits procured by our Government and additional 300 of these kits donated by the Government of New Zealand. These are crucial to ensure that the machines can continue to perform their functions of detecting COVID-19.
This also includes 8000 level one gowns donated by New Zealand, 8800 medical lab supplies from the World Health Organization and over 2000 antiseptic soaps procured by the Government.
All these are necessary in ensuring that our frontline health workers and those who engaged in COVID-19 operations perform their duties safely.
The Government remains forever grateful for the continuous support from our donors and development partners.
Fellow Solomon Islanders, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services now has a revised State of Emergency protocol highlighting the risk categories and the number of days required to perform COVID-19 testing. This is a positive step forward in our preparedness plans.
The Ministry of Health and Medical Services also conducted a 1 day training workshop with our media reporters. This is to assist our journalists in providing important COVID-19 information and other relevant information, regarding the Ministry’s COVID-19 operations and scope of responsibility.
The workshop also provided an avenue in which the Ministry and the media can effectively work together to ensure that the public continues to receive timely and correct information pertaining to the Ministry’s COVID-19 preparedness and response activities.
Fellow citizens, that said, the Government would like to once again assure the public that COVID-19 testing machines at the National Referral Hospital are operational as opposed to recent media reports that one of them is not working.
The release of all 178 repatriates in May, just two weeks ago is enough evidence that both machines are operational.
It must be noted that in the pacific only Fiji, New Caledonia, Guam and Solomon Islands perform COVID-19 tests with qPCR machines.
The World Health Organisation rates qPCR machines as one of the most sensitive and accurate methods for detecting, tracking and studying COVID-19. These machines have been the primary method for confirming COVID-19 cases globally. I appeal to those who are not experts in this field to stop making unfounded claims in the media.
My good people, as of June 11th 2020 to June 30th 2020, these machines have tested a total of 278 samples that were collected and tested for COVID-19.
All test results were negative.
Fellow citizens, before I conclude, I would like to remind all good citizens that next week Tuesday 7th July, marks our 42nd Independence Day.
However, you may have recalled in my previous statement that Cabinet has agreed to cancel all celebration of national events during this State of Public Emergency.
Whilst, the 42nd anniversary celebrations will be cancelled, we will still observe next Tuesday as a public holiday.
Cabinet also endorsed the proposal for me to deliver my 42nd Independence Anniversary address on SIBC and televised to the nation on 7th July 2020 as well.
In conclusion, Cabinet in the next few weeks will deliberate on important matters including whether or not we will need to extend the State of Public Emergency. As you are all aware, the State of Public Emergency will lapse on July 25th 2020. We will keep the public informed when a decision is reached.
However, as I stated earlier, we must not let our guards down.
We have learned of the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in our neighboring countries, and our Government will not take any chances that will risk the lives of our citizens.
Fellow citizens, this fight is far from over.
I would like to reassure my good people of Solomon Islands that the Government is taking our approach in keeping our country COVID-19 free, very seriously.
We acknowledge that the risk is real, but so is our collective commitment to keep the virus from reaching our shores.
My good people, despite our status as a COVID-19 free country, we must remain attentive more than ever.
This global pandemic has tested our resolve but by the Grace and Protection of God, we still remain COVID-19 free.
To God be the Glory great things He has done.
We are one people, We are one nation, We are Solomon Islands.
“YUMI TUGEDA AGAINST COVID-19”
May God Bless Solomon Islands from shore to shore.