SECRETARY to the Prime Minister (SPM) has cleared the air following criticisms regarding the government’s decision to allow a repatriation flight into China and return.
Dr. Jimmy Rodgers made the clarification from concern members of the public during the weekly talk-back show yesterday over the national broadcaster.
In response, he said China is not so risky as other countries in Asia.
He further explained that although China was the first country to contract the virus, it has since managed to keep its numbers down compared to other countries like the Philippines and Indonesia.
“At this point in time, there is more risks for us to repatriate nationals from the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
“The very important thing for our public to know is under the orders that are recommended by the oversight committee, pre-departure testing from these countries is mandatory.
“Anyone that comes in from the high-risk countries has to undergo three tests before boarding a plane,” said Dr. Rodgers.
He explained that the status of passengers must be ascertained before boarding flights.
“This would confirm whether a passenger is positive or negative. And if he/she is found to be negative, then the passenger will not be allowed to enter the country.”
He clarified that China has been an issue because it is guilty of being the first country to have COVID-19.
“Right now, China is no longer a high-risk country like some of the other countries where our people are living in,” said Dr. Rodgers.
He added that for those who have no sons, daughters, sisters, and relatives in those countries, they do not feel the pressure to bring their loved ones home.
“For families that have children out there that are exposed to risks posed by the virus, they are keen to get their loved ones home.
“Our job in the committee is to make sure that they are safe before they come, they are safe during the flight, and they are safe after they get here,” said Dr. Rodgers.
The Ministry of Health Emergencies and International Health Regulations advisor Dr. Yogesh Choudhri said they neither label nor stigmatized any country.
“We will carry out risk assessment exercise to whoever person that comes into the Solomon Islands.
“Our priority is to keep the country and its citizens safe,” said Dr. Yogesh.
It’s understood the government is planning to organise a return chartered flight to China to pick up more than 50 Solomon Islands national and 19 technical engineers to help with the project design of the sports facilities in preparation for the 2023 Pacific Games.
The Chinese team will undergo two weeks of quarantine and four weeks of work in the country.
Prime Minister earlier highlighted in parliament that allowing such national projects to continue is important to ensure money is being pumped into the country and jobs are created.
By ESTHER NURIA