AS Honiara residents prepare for the nation’s second lockdown later today, the debate over the origin of the COVID-19 community transmission continues unabated.
The government maintains that Ontong Java in the Malaita Outer Islands (MOI) is the source of the outbreak of the community transmission, which began on Wednesday 19th January.
Then, there were only six positive cases – all recorded on Pelau on Ontong Java. In the six days since, the spike has spiralled upwards and on Monday 24th January, the number of positive cases now stood at 476 nationwide.
Prime Minister Sogavare threw the spanner in the works as the debate over the origin of the COVID-19 cases rages. He blamed passengers and cargo vessels as the source of the community transmission of the deadly disease to the provinces.
At the same time, Mr. Sogavare hinted at longer period lockdowns down the line.
“I ask all shipping operators to respect this lockdown. Unfortunately, it is the ships sailing from Honiara, both cargo and passengers that are spreading the virus to the provinces already,” Prime Minister Sogavare said in his nationwide address on Monday.
Meanwhile the Office of the Prime Minister has maintained the “origin of the COVID-19 community transmission outbreak in Honiara is from Ontong Java and not from the foreign forces that were deployed to Honiara during the unrest last November.”
The Secretary to the Prime Minister (SPM) made the statement during last Sunday’s Talk-Back-Show.
“…I can guarantee 110 per cent that none of this outbreak came from any of the people that came in. Why? All of them were tested every day for 14 days when they got into the country and they tested negative for all those days.
“After that they were tested every week and they test negative … we tested them 14 times in 14 days and then after that every seven days and after that all of them are negative.”
“To those who are circulating such information please stop misinforming the public. “The origin of this virus does not come from the deployment of the foreign forces that came to assist us.
“So let us put that to rest. The origin of this outbreak is definitely from Ontong Java,” Dr Rodgers said.
The SPM spoke strongly against the stigmatisation of individuals who tested positive to COVID-19 infections.
“The COVID-19 is already all over Honiara. If you are in Nggossi there are hotspots in Nggossi, if you are in Tasahe there are hotspots there. It’s all over Honiara.
“The point I am making is that we should no longer be trying to say ‘don’t come here. The point I am making now is to contain it, so if you are at your home, reduce movements, don’t go out because if you are infected you can infect others,” he said.
“If you are not infected and you go out, you have the potential to be infected and take it back home,” he said, adding that the Oversight Committee and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services are now looking into additional measures to reduce people’s movement to help contain the spread of virus.”
It is understood that one of the measures is to create mobile clinics. In the proposed scheme qualified health workers would visit homes to administer the vaccination instead of individuals queuing up in designated vaccination centres in Honiara.
Critics maintain there are far too many gaps in the government’s argument that the virus originated in Pelau, Ontong Java.
“The fact of the matter is that the virus has been here long before 10th January when the government blamed passengers on the MV Akwa which arrived in Honiara from ONTONG JAVA as the carrier of the deadly virus,” they said.
The government has also been quiet on the type of virus variant that struck Honiara, fearing disclosure would strengthen finger-pointing by critics.
By Alfred Sasako