ONTONG Java in the Malaita Outer Islands is now in lockdown after six COVID-19 cases are detected in Pelau Village.
In a special address on the COVID-19 situation in the country on Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said it is still unknown what variant is circulating in Pelau.
“…whether it the Delta or the Omicron variant …both variants are described as the fittest, the fastest and the deadliest variants of COVID-19.
“It is therefore, my prayer and sincere hope that those individuals that contracted the virus will not get seriously sick and recover as soon as possible,” Mr Sogavare said.
“Given the seriousness of the COVID-19 situation in Ontong Java, I have today declared a lockdown on the whole of Ontong Java and surrounding areas for an indefinite period during this time,” the Prime Minister declared
He said during the lockdown no vessel or helicopter is allowed to enter or leave Ontong Java except for vessels or helicopters authorised through the Oversight Committee and its operating arms.
“No one except authorising officers is allowed to travel to or leave Ontong Java.
“Until further notice we discourage mixing of people from Leuwanua and Pelau villages. Movements of people within the two villages are still allowed but when they do move around we advise all villagers to observe and implement COVID-19 safe practices,” Mr Sogavare said.
The COVID-19 safe practices the Prime Minister wanted the people of Ontong Java to adhere to are;
- Wear facemasks – all persons on the island must wear facemasks
- Not to gather in numbers or large crowds
- Practise social distancing by staying at least 2 metres from the next person.
- Use hand sanitisers when touching something or someone.
- Do not shake hands
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow
- Frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time.
The Prime Minister said a 31 member team will be deployed to the island on Wednesday 19th January 2022.
He said additional measures will be implemented after the team conducted a detailed assessment on the current situation on the island.
In the meantime, he said the government will ensure food supplies to the shops in Pelau and Leuwanua is marinated through an approved shipping service to ensure people of Ontong Java can still access and buy their food from their suppliers.
“In this regard, the vessel MV Solomon Prestige II which had been recalled by the oversight committee on Saturday 15th January will be allowed to travel to Ontong Java on Wednesday 19th January with its cargoes, to supply shops in Leuwanua and Pelau and take the combined response team and their gears to Pelau,” he said.
He said the Government will inform shop owners in Pelau and Leuwanua and suppliers in Honiara on the shipping services to Ontong Java during the lockdown period to ensure they can restock food supplies and other essential commodities such as water on the island.
He then urged the chiefs, church leaders and people of Ontong Java to observe the COVID-19 measures he outlined “…we have gone passed the prevention phase, we are in the containment and management phase”.
Therefore, he said everyone must focus their efforts to;
- Reduce the rate of transmission in the community through COVID19 safe practises.
- As much as possible isolate the ones that are positive and those with symptoms or are sick.
- If the COVID-19 infection is wide spread there could be no option but to manage all COVID-19 cases in people’s own homes which will mean all others in the household will get infected.
- Prevent any further illegal border crossers from Tasman and other nearby Papua New Guinea islands.
“It is my sincere hope that people infected with the virus will not get sick from it simply because we do not have any capacity to transfer sick patients to Honiara.
“Every person that gets sick from COVID-19 will be managed in Ontong Java and I pray we will not witness serious disease and or lives lost as we have seen in other countries.
“It is incredibly sad that, this could have been prevented if not for the border crossers,” the Prime Minister said.