Many individuals on Wagina say their recovery from COVID-19 was because of herbal treatment.

Without proper healthcare facilities and a rundown clinic, people are left to fend for themselves the best way they can.

Wagina is almost 300km away from Honiara. The island does not have any internet services. The network service there is still on 2G but is sometimes unreliable.

Wagina became one of the first rural communities in Choiseul province to record positive cases of COVID-19 when the community transmission was detected in Solomon Islands.

"I was so scared when I heard that Wagina now has COVID-19. When I heard who the people were, I grew more scared because I was in contact with them recently and now feared for my own life" says Andrew.

59 year old Andrew lives on the island of Peniamina. Peniamina is about a 15 minute boat ride from Wagina. It is well-known in the area for seaweed farming.

Andrew said he contracted the virus at the peak of its transmission in Wagina.

"I was swabbed and tested positive for the virus. After being swabbed they told me to remain in my house and not to mix with people in the community. I was expecting more but they did not give me any medicine.

"After hearing on the radio the number of people that continued to die from COVID-19, I was so scared. I thought that I would not survive this sickness because I have underlying conditions. My wife gave me all sorts of plant juice for me to drink. Even for the steam, she threw in all sorts of leaves for me to breathe with. It was most traumatising for me", Andrew said.

Andrew said his experience in contracting COVID-19 was the worst experience ever.

"I think because of the news and death messages I heard on the radio daily, I also got affected by it. With my condition and how they were saying that vulnerable people are those with underlying conditions, I almost lost it", he said.

But luckily enough for him, he was fully vaccinated. He said he did not want to take any chances since COVID-19 is the cause of death for a lot of people globally.

Thomas, a seaweed farmer on another island in the Wagina area, also shared the same sentiments.

He said he and his family moved to the island when the virus was detected in their community but they might not have escaped the virus. He said they later developed COVID like symptoms.

“We experienced symptoms like loss of smell, taste and headache. We also took herbal treatment and it worked for us. Now we are fine", Thomas said.

On another note, Ana, another resident in Wagina says COVID also brought with it a bright side.

"Now we are planting cassava, potato and cabbages. We have to be prepared in case we face food shortages in the future. We do not want to relive what has happened during the lockdown when we have to dig 'wild swamp taro' (kakake) to sustain us when we experience food shortages".

She said they have come to realise that they cannot rely on goods bought from the shops for their daily upkeep. She said from then on, she and her husband decided to concentrate on gardening, while their children work on their seaweed farm.

"The herbal treatment really worked for us. Now people are going about their business as usual. Work has to go on and people need to make a living and find food for their families', Ana said.

The herbal treatment the islanders used are what is known as beach cabbage or scaevola taccada. The plant is often used as medicine by the peoples of the Pacific. In Indonesia, the roots of the plant are used as an antidote to eating poisonous crabs and fish.

While there is less research done on the plant, islanders usually use the plant leaves to treat indigestion, treat coughs, pneumonia and tuberculosis. The plant has many other uses as well.

Wagina Area Health Centre has been run down for some time already. It only provides basic health care services and does not have the capacity to deal with an influx of COVID-19 patients. It only has one clinical nurse and a health promotion officer, supporting the nurse in her work there. The nurse says the number of people presenting themselves with COVID-19 like symptoms have drastically reduced.

“The most common illness here is diarrhoea. The only time people presented themselves with COVID-19 like symptoms was when we recorded our first cases of COVID-19. Now things are back to normal”.

She says the clinic has 100 Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits and has a full stock supply of medicines.

“The population here is well over 2000 and the 100 RAT test kits are not enough. I am still to work out how I will utilise the RAT kits”, she said.

While people are moving freely in the community without masks, churches on the other hand are still imposing the health measures required of them.

Congregants are expected to wear masks and maintain seating distance during church service.

In Wagina, almost every family on the island is involved in seaweed farming. Many have made homes for themselves on surrounding islands where their seaweed farms are.