The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) in a statement this afternoon said that it is investigating 4 people at Pelau village in Ontong Java that are suspected of COVID-19 infection. If these people are confirmed to have COVID-19 infection, the risk of community transmission is extremely high.
The 4 suspected positive cases are close contacts of the 10 people who illegally entered our borders on Sunday 9th of January 2022 and landed at Pelau village, Ontong Java from Tasman Island of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. Upon receiving reports of the illegal entry, health with support from the RSIPF deployed a team of four people to undertake urgent contact tracing and conduct rapid COVID-19 tests [Rapid Antigen Tests – RATs].
A total of 19 close contacts were identified and were tested together with the 10 illegal border crossers. A total of 29 people were tested on 15th January 2022. 4 close contacts of the 10 illegal border crossers tested positive using the RAT test.
As these results are only indicative, all the 29 tests swabs will be transferred to Honiara on 16th January for assessment using the GeneXpert machine to rule out false positives, which sometimes occur with RATs.
The Oversight Committee convened an emergency meeting on the evening of 15th January 2022 at the request of the National Health Emergency Operation Centre (NHEOC). It reviewed the current information and approved a series of interventions including the deployment of necessary medical supplies, equipment, tools, and human resources. NDMO will deploy camp management staff and RSIPF will increase its staff complement at Ontong Java within the week.
A helicopter has been arranged to travel to Ontong Java early on 16th January 2022 [Sunday] to retrieve and transfer the swabs for all 29 people. Any other person that may have been in contact with the 4 people that tested positive will also be swabbed and their swabs transferred to Honiara.
Health is also liaising with Solomon Islands Maritime Administration (SIMSA) and other relevant authorities to review ships that may have travelled to and from MOI since 9th of January. One vessel, MV Solomons Prestige 2 was directed to return to Honiara to ensure no one goes into Ontong Java until further notice.
In the meantime, an Immediate suspension of movement into and out of Ontong Java, will shortly be enforced which means no ships and boats can travel into or out of Ontong Java until further notice.
This means, the entire Ontong Java will be a ‘NO-GO zone’. Only authorized personnel can enter or leave Ontong Java. No one else is allowed to enter or leave Ontong Java until further advise from health. Families of people that have tested positive, please maintain home quarantine.
Pending the outcome of the confirmatory tests, people of Ontong Java, need to stay home and do not go out and mix freely with other. Only one person per household may only leave home to buy food or seek medical attention and for, that only one person from each family can go to buy food.
Health is also advising on limited number of people, not more than 2 for essential activities outside of home such as gardening and fishing. All activities that involve gathering of people are immediately suspended as part of the lockdown. Once you go out of home, always maintain social distance of 2 metres from others and wear a mask. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. If someone in your family develops fever, cough, or runny nose, immediately isolate this person, and inform the nurse on Pelau Island.
Border communities are once again advised to refrain from making contact with any persons entering our borders illegally from another country and report them to police, health, and other relevant authorities for necessary actions.
You can now see the result of people disobeying advice to not allow anybody from PNG or Bougainville regions to enter and land in our villages. People of Ontong Java please ensure no one else from Tasman Island or any other island is allowed to land in any of your villages. Continued disregard of these instructions is why we might have COVID-19 in Ontong Java.
- That a lockdown will be enforced in Ontong Java as soon as the legal instruments are signed to prevent anyone from entering and leaving Ontong java until further notice
- To not let anyone from across the border to come and land in Ontong Java. It is an offence to allow persons that entered illegally to land in Ontong Java.
- People that had not been in contact with the 10 illegal border crossers or with those that had made contact with them may still move around the village with care. Health is sending facemasks on the helicopter. Please wear them.
- People from Pelau must not travel to Luaniua, and people from Luaniua must not travel to Pelau. There must be no mixing between the people from these two villages until further notice.
- Anyone that has made contact with the infected people need to self-quarantine and be tested regularly.