Fellow Solomon Islanders who are watching and listening to today’s national address, I commence my statement today by paying tribute to the late Sir Paul Tovua who was called rest by our Eternal Heavenly Father last Friday afternoon.
Fellow Citizens, many of you would have heard the Message of Condolence that I put out on behalf of the government and our whole country for the outstanding contributions that the late Sir Paul Tovua had made to our nation.
I once again extend our profound and heartfelt condolences to the wife, children, and family of the late Sir Paul Tovua at this time of sorrow and sadness. May Sir Paul Tovua’s Soul rest in peace in God’s keeping.
New Arrivals into Solomon Islands in the past 2 weeks
Fellow citizens since my last address on 25th January 2021, a total of 255 people have entered the Solomon Islands, 5 via PNG, 18 via Fiji, 23 via Brisbane, 124 from Guangzhou and 77 arrived from Auckland last night.
You will recall that the flight that arrived last night, 7th February was labelled a ‘High-Risk Flight’. I am pleased to inform you all that the 77 passengers who arrived on the flight last night had all been swabbed on arrival to ensure we know their Covid-19 status on arrival. We anticipate receiving the results within 24 hours.
So far, all the new arrivals over the past 2 weeks, except for those that arrived last night for whom we have not yet received their results, have tested negative for Covid-19.
Current Status of COVID-19 in Solomon Islands
Fellow Solomon Islanders, since my last address, I regret to advise that we have registered one additional case of COVID-19. This new case who is one of the students that arrived from Manila on 21st January 2021, has now brought to 18 cases, the official number of COVID-19 cases in our country.
Apart from this new case, the last 2 cases from the UK that had turned negative had reactivated and have become positive again.
This means we have 3 positive Covid-19 cases, only one of whom is new and the other 2 are reactivations. However, as I had indicated in my special address on Monday 29th January, the reactivated cases do not alter our official numbers, which remain at 18.
Of these 18 cases, 14 are in the community, 4 are still at the field hospital including the student that had been brought back from Malaita province and who is still negative.
I wish to reassure the public that we will only release the people who are still positive after they test negative for 3 consecutive times 7 days apart after they become negative.
Update on the COVID-19 situation in Malaita
Fellow-citizens, I am pleased to inform you all that the student that was brought back from Malaita province and is now at the Field Hospital is still negative.
I am also happy to reconfirm that the 31 tests that were collected in the village where the student stayed all tested negative for COVVID-19.
I have asked the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and the Director of Health and Medical Services in Malaita Province, Dr. Henry Kako, to speed up the expanded contact tracing process and swabbing of the other contacts of the student that tested positive while in his village.
In saying this, let me assure the people in Malaita Province that we are confident there had not been any community transmission in Malaita province. We will provide further updates as soon as the results of our expanded contact tracing program come to hand.
Quality of Laboratory Testing and rain-damage to the lab
Fellow-citizens, I am informed there are some anxieties expressed in social media platforms in relation to the quality of testing at our Molecular Laboratory.
Let me assure the public that the standards and quality controls implemented by our Molecular laboratory are of the highest standard. These have been verified to be so by the World Health Organisation and our Reference Laboratories in Australia.
The fluctuating results stated on the social media platform is not uncommon with the COVID-19 virus. The most important thing is for us to be continually vigilant and to make sure we only release people who had been positive after they fulfill the 3-negative test criteria.
Fellow Solomon Islanders I must also inform you that the Molecular laboratory had to suspend its services for 3 days last week due to rain-damage to the laboratory that made it unsafe to work.
I commend the NRH for their quick action to repair the damage and I further commend the Molecular laboratory staff for ensuring all COVID-19 tests were completed in good time.
The outstanding work by our Molecular Laboratory staff is why Solomon Islands is still free from Community transmission. The proof of the quality of their work is the absence of community transmission of COVID-19. To date, almost 9,000 tests had been conducted by the Molecular lab.
I have instructed my office and the Ministry of health to establish the source of the wrong information circulating in the social media platforms. Circulation or publishing of wrong or inaccurate information is an offence during the period of the State of Public Emergency.
COVID-19 Vaccine update
Fellow citizens, the Oversight Committee together with the COVAX Coordinating Committee and the Technical Working Group on Vaccines hope to present our National COVID-19 Vaccination Policy and Implementation Plan to the Caucus and Cabinet next week for our consideration.
Despite missing out on the Pfizer Vaccines for 0.25% of our population, I am pleased to inform you all that the COVAX Facility has confirmed the allocation of an indicative number of 108,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Solomon Islands.
We hope to receive 40% of the doses during the 1st quarter of 2021, and the remaining 60% during the second quarter of 2021.
I am pleased to inform you all that preparations are well underway for the roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Solomon Islands.
The Ministry of Health has activated technical teams comprising of our very own health experts supported by our partners to coordinate and contribute to different aspects of the COVID-19 vaccination planning and delivery process.
The government is also liaising with partners to secure additional doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
As highlighted in my 25th January address, the flight that arrived last night was the last scheduled repatriation flight.
However, as a result of about 40 students remaining in Manila, we are planning a final repatriation flight to bring home the remaining students from Manila.
The government is aware we still have some citizens waiting to be repatriated from the UK, USA, and Canada. We encourage these citizens to be vaccinated before their repatriation home. In this regard, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be coordinating with our High Commissions, Embassies, and representatives in these countries to ensure our citizens can access vaccinations before their return home.
National Referral Hospital returning to normal service and standby arrangements
Fellow-citizens, I am pleased to inform you all that COVID-19 Isolation wards at the National Referral Hospital which were used in the early phase of our repatriation are now empty and are undergoing minor maintenance work.
All doctors, nurses, and support staff that was called upon to assist with COVID-19 have been released to return to their normal duties. They are on standby mode should the National Health Emergency Operation Centre further require their support.
Only the staff of the NRH Molecular laboratory remain a core part of the COVID-19 program.
I urge the public to continue to observe the COVID-19 prevention measures when going to the NRH. These include frequent hand washing with soap or hand sanitizer, maintaining physical distance of at least a meter, coughing into bent elbows, and limiting the number of visitors.
Fellow-citizens, we continue to increase our focus and provision of COVID-19 related services to provinces.
In the Western province, all health facilities, triage and isolation wards at Gizo Hospital, and the Western border facility at Nila in Short land Islands are operational and are on standby.
Gizo Hospital COVID-19 testing laboratory remains functional and can now conduct pre-departure tests for persons in the western province who are planning to travel.
The ministry of health is continuing to train front-liners on infection prevention and control (IPC).
In Malaita province, allow me first and foremost to convey my sincere appreciation to those that assisted in and were involved with the joint mission to contain a possible community transmission of COVID-19 in Malaita province.
I reiterate my thanks to the members of the joint team, the community members, as well as family and friends of the student that had reactivation for their support.
As I have indicated above, I have requested my office, the Ministry of Health and the Provincial Director of Heath to expedite the expanded contact tracing so that we can definitely close this case.
Fellow Solomon Islanders the Government remains very grateful for the support from its donors and partners, especially to the ministry of health that leads our fight against COVID-19.
Since my last address, the ministry of health received more support from our partners including:
• Biomedical supplies from WHO to support with COVID-19 and other health services.
• 50 thousand PPEs comprising face shields, hand sanitizers and face masks from Tongs Corporation,
• Almost 30,000 N95 masks for theatre use donated to the NRH by the Australia Society of Anesthetists. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and trade (DFAT) assisted with the shipment of the consignment to Honiara.
We thank WHO, Tongs Corporation, the Australia Society of Anesthetists, and the Australian government for your valuable support to Solomon Islands.
Phase 2 – Kukum highway project
Fellow-citizens, I am pleased to inform you all that the ‘Exchange of Notes’ to formalise Phase 2 of the SB$243 million dollars Kukum Highway project was signed between my government and the Government of Japan last week.
The project will cover the 6.3 Kilometres of the road from the Ministry of Fisheries to the Honiara International Airport. This includes 4.3 kilometres of 4-lane road to the Lunga Bridge and 2 kilometres of 2-lane road from Lunga Bridge to the Airport.
Ancillaries to the road project include the drainage systems, bus stations, streetlights, traffic signboards, and pavement markings.
My good people, this project along with the current Honiara International Airport Project and other major infrastructure projects, will continue to improve the landscape and transform Honiara into a modern city.
The project timeframe is 24 months. It is expected to be completed by June 2023, ahead of the Pacific Games opening.
On behalf of the Government and people of Solomon Islands, I thank the Government and people of Japan for this milestone partnership, engagement, and cooperation.
Pacific Games Update
Fellow Solomon Islanders, before I close, allow me to also give you an update on the progress of the Pacific Games 2023.
My good people, we are on target to complete all the facilities and all our preparations to successfully host the 2023 Pacific Games.
Last Friday my government achieved another milestone – the launching of a ‘Whole of Government Services Integration Committee’ that will unite the resources of all 24 government ministries to assist the National Hosting Authority to successfully deliver Pacific Games 2023.
The ‘whole of Government Services Integration Committee’ is the largest of the 12 committees under the ‘Games Organising Committee’ which is the primary committee responsible for the actual delivery of the games.
4 of the committees under the Games Organising Committee are headed by the Government and 8 headed by the Pacific Games Association [PGA] also known as the National Olympic Committee of Solomon Islands [NOCSI].
The other three Committees headed by the government are (i) Health and Social Services Committee, (ii) Security Committee, and (iii) Host City Committee. These 3 committees are also part of the ‘whole of Government Services Integration Committee’.
The ‘whole of Government Services Integration Committee’ reflects governments ‘many partners, one team, spirit’ which is essential for the successful delivery of the games.
It also embodies the theme for the 2023 Pacific Games of – Challenge, Unite and Celebrate.
I call on all public servants assigned to this committee to fully commit to this transformational development.
The 2023 Pacific Games will be the most transformational project because it is not only about sports.
It is about putting in place a new platform for our nation’s development agenda that will leave a legacy that unites our country and our region long into the future. We can do it and we can achieve it if we all work together.
Fellow citizens let me remind all of us that our fight against COVID-19 is far from over.
Our resolve and commitment have been tested. So far, we have contained the virus at our quarantine stations and the field hospital.
Our economy despite being sluggish has continued to perform.
However, with God’s guidance and blessings, and together with the support from our development partners, and commitment from the people of this beautiful country, we have continued to move forward. God is our Redeemer.
Let me close with a quote from the Book of Prophet Isaiah Chapter 41 and Verse 10, and I quote…
“Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed; for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness”… (close quote)
To God be the Glory Great Things He has done.
United we stand by the grace of God.
We are one people, We are one nation, We are Solomon Islands.
‘IUMI TUGEDA AGAINST COVID-19.’
May God Bless Solomon Islands from shore to shore.
Thank you for your attention.