21 July 2020

‘Cabinet approves SoPE extension’


PRIME Minister (PM) Manasseh Sogavare would be endorsing a recommendation to his Excellency the Governor-General (GG) to make a declaration for the extension of the current State of Public Emergency (SoPE) when it lapses at midnight on 24th July 2020.

This came after the Cabinet has approved the recommendation from the Oversight Committee to extend the current emergency period for another four months.

It's understood following the declaration by GG, the government would then table a motion in Parliament to approve the extension.

Mr Sogavare yesterday said this is to ensure the country’s borders are controlled and mandatory quarantine and testing can continue unimpeded.

“If we do not declare another state of public emergency when the current SoPE lapses we will not be able to quarantine any people that come into the country from overseas. 

“All those who are currently kept in the quarantine stations will automatically be released to their homes,” Sogavare said.

He further pointed out that anyone who comes into the country by air or sea will proceed directly to their homes and hotels.

“If the infection of COVID-19 is increased by fivefold meaning it is five times more likely to enter the Solomon Islands today. Should we step up our quarantine measures or just allow them to go straight to their homes and hotels and just hope the virus did not come,” Sogavare questioned.

He further emphasised the only way the country can protect its people from COVID-19 is to have tight control of the international borders.

“And the only way to do this is through another declaration of the State of Public Emergency before the current one lapses,” Sogavare affirmed. 

He pointed out that the relevant laws that deal with the country’s quarantine are not adequate enough.

In light of the potential and serious consequences of COVID-19 outbreak in the country Sogavare said that the Oversight Committee had recommended to the Cabinet to consider and endorsed the declaration of another SoPE to come into effect when the current one lapses.

The Prime Minister said he understands that many are worried about the impact on businesses and the normal way of life if there is another SOPE.

“Let me reassure you all, that the key objective of the SOPE will be to ensure national security, enable mandatory quarantine, testing, and contact tracing for COVID-19, including the provision of all services related to our quarantine stations,” he said.

The Prime Minister said all businesses, schools, sports, etc will operate normally.

However, he said should the situation change, should there is the first case of COVID-19, the government can act immediately to restrict certain events, services, etc without having to seek legal and legislative recourse or solutions to act rapidly in such situations.

The Prime Minister also reassured that during the next period of SOPE, his government would consider urgent legal solutions.

Prime Minister Sogavare said this includes a review of existing legislation to be brought before Parliament that will allow mandatory quarantine and testing.

He said this would be done on any notifiable or quarantinable disease that might also be classified as a public health emergency of international concern without having to resort to a SOPE.

“But, this will take time to do, so declaring another SOPE is the only and best solution for the country right now,” the Prime Minister said.

Meanwhile, Transparency Solomon Islands (TSI) said that they supported the new SoPE in the best interest of the country but the government and the Oversight Committee must be transparent about their decisions.

Outspoken TSI Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ruth Liloqula calls on the government and its Oversight Committee to be transparent and accountable in their dealing during the SoPE.

“While TSI supports the government in its decision to extend the SoPE they need to also consider some of the areas that have already affected the people and businesses to try and ease it for our people,” Liloqula said.