The Solomon Islands government will be implementing the following additional measures incrementally to protect Solomon Islands from the corona virus.
In a statement, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said most of the early actions focus on Honiara and Guadalcanal being the most vulnerable areas for the infection to start if it comes into the country.
1. Early closure of all Schools in Honiara and Guadalcanal to proceed on an early school break from Friday 20 March. Students will vacate the boarding schools during the break. Schools in the rest of the country will remain open until the scheduled first-term school break. All schools will reopen in accordance with school calendar in April unless the situation changes when further decisions will be made.
Decisions on the tertiary institutions will be made by their respective authorities, noting the decision taken by government in Honiara and Guadalcanal province Schools.
2. All citizens not working and living in Honiara are encouraged to return or relocate to provinces immediately. Honiara is the most vulnerable location for the virus. It is important to reduce the population in Honiara during this time and in anticipation of a potential lockdown of the city should an outbreak occur.
3. All citizens in the provinces are advised to NOT undertake any non-essential travel to Honiara with immediate effect.
4. All traditional and non-traditional Border travelers using the Solomon Islands – PNG border are advised this border crossing will be closed effective Friday 20 March 2020. PNG has already closed their side effective today.
5. Honiara Central market will remain open until further notice.
6. Kukum Market will close indefinitely from Monday 23rd March 2020.
7. Fishing Village market will close indefinitely from Monday 23rd March 2020.
8. All illegal markets, makeshift betelnut markets within the Honiara City boundary and on Guadalcanal province from the eastern town boundary to Alligator creek and from the western town boundary to Poha will be closed by 23 March 2020.
9. International and domestic flights will be reduced from Sunday 22 March 2020. Decisions on flight reductions have been made by the airlines themselves as follows:
a. Virgin Airline’s last flight is today, Thursday 19th March 2020
b. Air Niugini is suspending all its flights for 2 weeks initially. Its last flight is this Sunday 20 March 2020.
c. Solomon Airlines is likely reducing its flights to Brisbane to 3 flights a week.
d. There will also be reductions in Solomon Airlines’ domestic route
10. Self-Quarantine – Incoming passengers from or who travelled through any country reporting cases of Corona virus, regardless of nationality and number of cases reported in those countries will self-quarantine for 14 days, (a) at home (if they come with health / medical certificate no older than 5 days prior to arrival date certifying clean bill of health) or (b) at institutional quarantine centre if (i) they travel through restricted or affected countries, (ii) do not have medical certificate or (iii) they have some elderly or immune compromised people at their homes), and (c) hotel rooms with effect Friday 20 March.
11. Quarantine facilities / centres – The government has already secured several facilities to be used as quarantine centres for incoming passengers as well as for our own nationals that may need to be quarantined for certain period of time from their homes. More facilities are being assessed to ensure they are ready for use if so needed.
12. All Cruise Ships and yachts are banned with immediate effect for 90 days.
13. All cargo ships, including all logging, mineral ore and fishing vessels must serve the 14 days quarantine period at sea and can only be cleared at Noro and Honiara Ports.
14. Non-essential public gatherings including sporting events, fun-raising concerts, weddings, night clubs, kava bars are discouraged. This may extend to churches if the situation gets worse.
15. Scaling down non-essential government services – Non-essential government services will be scaled down following an assessment by Permanent Secretaries, and in the case of Honiara City Council and Guadalcanal Province, the City Clerk and the Provincial Secretary of Guadalcanal Province respectively.
16. ‘Tourism Solomons’ will temporarily halt all overseas marketing trips and reduce frequency of events that would result in gathering of people domestically.
17. Prioritising Government Expenditure – All permanent secretaries are now reviewing and re-prioritising their respective ministry budgets in anticipation of budget pressures due to the Corona Virus.
18. Sustaining Economic Activity and Growth – The government is currently analyzing appropriate ‘economic stimulus’ interventions to ensure the country’s economic engine continues to operate during the corona-virus-driven down-turn in economic activity.
19. Regular Communication – Effective today, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and the Government Communication Unit will provide daily updates on the Corona Virus situation in the country on electronic, print and broadcast media.
20. Establishing Capability to test Corona Virus at the NRH – The government is moving ahead to procure and set up local capability to test Corona Virus at the NRH dengue laboratory within the next few weeks. Currently we can only have our samples tested in Melbourne.
These measures will be reviewed regularly and will be adjusted as necessary to suit the situation on the ground.