A Commentary by Alfred Sasako
MANY arguments and counter arguments have been made, particularly on social media about the pros and cons about the government’s approach to contain the epidemic.
In particular, the argument over the origin of the virus took centre stage in the past two weeks.
No doubt these will continue for months to come.
But while these arguments may be useful, a different approach is called for. In doing so, I note the following in a message sent to me earlier today:
- The virus is here. It is here to stay;
- The virus has already spread to almost every household in Honiara;
- Secretary to Prime Minister (SPM) made it clear that the virus is all over Honiara;
- There is likely 3/5 households already with the virus in Honiara. Frontline workers including surveillance officers, medical doctors, nurses and covid19 lab testing officers at the National Referral Hospital all have tested positive;
- Many government workers including those in the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet have tested positive for the virus. Huge number of police officers have also tested positive for the virus;
- There are those individuals who fell ill with the viral infection and there are those that did not; and
- The majority of those who fell ill with the virus have slowly recovered and many more have fully recovered including those at the Lord Howe settlement in Honiara as well as those in the Malaita Outer Islands, according to reports from there.
The following points must also be made.
The self-isolation at home will not work if PPEs are not distributed to homes and people do not use them properly. The COVID19 lab testing capacity continues to be a challenge. There is probably just one intern conducting daily tests of samples. Most of the lab officers themselves have likely tested positive while others are down with fatigue having worked tirelessly all throughout the nights in the first few days when the first case was detected from one of the passengers of MV Awka.
Resource mobilization remains chronically slow and the livelihood committee is still to be fully operational and continuously faced with financial and logistical challenges. It is highly likely all of the oversight committee members are already infected with the virus and so are the majority of cabinet ministers and caucus members.
We all know that a first negative test result does not necessarily mean absolute negativity because the virus needs incubation period or between three (3) to five (5) days in order to be detected.
One may test negative but could become positive a few days later. We do not have the capacity to test all of our citizens nor the symptomatic ones because we simply lack the resources and trained personnel to do such.
To contain the spread of the virus is highly unlikely and the lockdown is unlikely to achieve containment. The logistical challenges, the limited resources at our disposal and our own coordination inefficiencies will not achieve any containment.
The wise thing to do now is to re-strategize and come up with a new approach, one that accepts the fact that the virus is already in our communities and even households, one that accepts to live with the virus and one that puts more emphasis on a house-to-house vaccination rollout.
Top priority now is to conduct the house-to-house vaccination rollout in Honiara to be quickly completed within a window period of two weeks and not more than a month. Testing should only be focused on the elderly ones and those with other existing conditions that show ill symptoms of the virus.
These patients should undergo testing and hospitalized at the field hospitals and other additional facilities. The rest should only be given facial masks and surgical gloves. Other options such as those with positive cases are allowed to work in the same office space while those without infection to work in separate office spaces and NOT to come in contact with the positive individuals.
Businesses must now be allowed to reopen because the lockdown will achieve nothing as all the operational challenges still remain. Let us rethink our approach to the current situation.
The country needs to restrategize now…. Learning to live and grow the economy in this trying times
Our main economic policy tool is to sustain and grow the economy thru domestic investment and increase trade. The following should be given urgent consideration:
- increase direct grants and concessional loans to small businesses and key industries;
- Promote food security for domestic consumption with additional capital injection and encourage existing small agriculture and fisheries bussiness to engage in increased processing of food production, liaise with local wholesale and retailers for distribution;
- Inject more funds into DBSI to lend to key industries;
- Liaise with other commercial banks to reduce lending rates;
- Increase funding to CEMA to buy more commodities for exports and manufacturing. These are additional thoughts to improve our domestic economy.
The government should call an emergency cabinet meeting to deliberate on the above
We can’t sit and wait till the 4-day lockdown is over
Yes Colleagues, PRC also provides tens of thousands PPE (face masks, sanitizers, latex gloves etc.) & SBD$2.6m for covid-19 assistance to MHMS. Our utmost thanks & appreciation to kind generosity of PRC in times of need.
The slogan “IUMI TUGEDA AGAINST COVID-19” should be in full throttle from here on by everyone right across this nation. And the question everyone should be asking now, including myself is WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?
Let’s put our differences aside and let’s do this together. We owe this to our citizens and our children.
Let’s put our differences aside and let’s do this together! We owe this to our citizens and our children. There are two (2) important questions we need to answer.
The first is to the SIG – How can we, as citizens help? and; two is to any and all Solomon Islanders – are you willing to help?
Remember, the virus is here to stay. Its menacing presence calls for greater sacrifices by both leaders and citizens alike.