PM unveils new measures
By ESTHER NURIA
SCHOOLS in Honiara and Guadalcanal will take an early holiday starting today as the government announced new measures against the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19).
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare announced the raft of measures in a national address to the nation last night in the wake of the imminent threat the virus poses to the nation.
The announcement comes as a second suspected case sent to Australia for tests returned negative.
Sogavare said under the new measures, all students will vacate the boarding schools during the break.
“But schools in the rest of the country will remain open until the scheduled first-term school break,” the prime minister said.
“All schools will reopen in accordance with the school calendar in April unless the situation changes when further decisions will be made,” he added.
“Decisions on the tertiary institutions will be made by their respective authorities, noting the decision taken by the government in Honiara and Guadalcanal Province schools.”
Sogavare also encouraged those not working and living in Honiara to return or relocate to the provinces immediately.
“Honiara is the most vulnerable location for the virus.
“It is important to reduce the population in Honiara during this time and in anticipation of a potential lockdown of the city should an outbreak occur.
“Those in the provinces are advised NOT to undertake any non-essential travel to Honiara with immediate effect.”
He also announced the closure of the PNG-SI border.
Kukum and Fishing Village markets will be closed down starting Monday, while the Central Market will remain open until further notice.
“All illegal markets, makeshift betel nut markets within the city boundary and on Guadalcanal Province from the eastern town boundary to Alligator Creek and from the western town boundary to Poha will be closed by 23 March 2020.
International and domestic flights, the prime minister said, will be reduced from Sunday 22 March 2020.
He explained decisions on flight reductions have been made by the airlines themselves.
“All cruise ships and yachts are banned with immediate effect for 90 days.
“All cargo ships, including all logging, mineral ore and fishing vessels must serve the 14 days quarantine period at sea and can only be cleared at Noro and Honiara ports.”
He further stressed that non-essential public gatherings including sporting events, weddings, fundraising, night clubs, and kava bars are discouraged.
“This may extend to churches if the situation gets worse,” he said.
He also highlighted the scaling down of non-essential government services based on the assessment of the respective permanent secretaries.
Sogavare said these measures will be reviewed regularly and will be adjusted as necessary to suit the situation on the ground.