WHEN foreign troops from Fiji and Papua New Guinea were first deployed following the rioting, looting and burning of properties in Honiara last November, they were seen as the saviour.
And they were.
But now that perception is apparently changing.
With the unwelcomed entry of the COVID-19 community transmission cases in the country earlier this week, the finger of blame is now pointing at the foreign soldiers as being the source of introducing the deadly virus into Solomon Islands.
The public perception is vastly different from the position taken by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and his government, which blamed Pelau in Ontong Java as the source for the virus. It was there that some six people, including a foreigner tested positive to the killer virus.
Two cases have since been detected at the Lord Howe Settlement at Mamanawata in Honiara. They were passengers onboard a local passenger/cargo vessel, the MV Akwa, which arrived in Honiara from Ontong Java on 10th January.
The ship later travelled to East Are’Are and returned via Auki a few days later.
According to some members of the public, there are serious gaps in the government’s narrative on the community transmission.
First the foreign troops never went through adequate quarantine requirements before they were deployed in Honiara.
“The soldiers were seen drinking kava with some locals even before they were allowed to be deployed outside their quarantine stations. The government knows very well that these soldiers are from countries where the delta variant and the Omicron variant were present.
“This means that the community spread of the virus had taken place well before Pelau. The saviour in the form of soldiers who came at the behest of Prime Minister is now turning to be a curse on the nation,” one observer said yesterday.
The MV Akwa simply got caught in this whole thing. The onus is on the government to tell the nation the source for the community transmission, the man said.
In East Are’Are, one village is reported to have imposed its own lockdown for fear an infected passenger who travelled on the MV Akwa might be visit the village.
“The community has put up notices at the entry to the village to keep strangers away. They have also posted village security men to enforce the lockdown,” one person told Solomon Star yesterday.
Meanwhile the extent of the risks the COVID-19 community transmissions pose to the country has begun to emerge.
The government, for example, faces the daunting task of controlling the spread and transmission of the virus to the provinces.
As well, it does not have adequate space for the sick as new cases continue to come through.
“The biggest challenge for the government is lack of resources, including trained personnel to assist in the tracing of and addressing cases particularly in the provinces,” one main pointed out on social media yesterday.
It was also pointed out that coming as it did shortly after the November destruction of shops and properties in Honiara, the cost of administering the community transmission would run into hundreds of millions of dollars, which the government does not have.
The Minister of Health and Medical Services, Dr Culwick Togamana and his Permanent Secretary, Pauline McNeil have also come for criticisms for not taking control of the situation.