Ensuring operations continue during lockdowns is the focus of GPPOL’s lockdown initiative from Sunday 6pm to Tuesday 31 August 6pm.

While the emergency zones in Honiara went on a 36-hour lockdown, the Guadalcanal Plains Plantation Limited (GPPOL) however went on a 48-hour lockdown to test their response to any future lockdown.

Honiara was at a standstill during the 36 hours lockdown with only the movements of exempted personnel along the highway, carrying out essential work, crucial for the government’s Standard Operating Procedures in response to any community outbreak of the COVID-19 especially the delta variant.

While the economical hub of Honiara sleeps, back in the plains, it is business as usual for the biggest palm oil company in Solomon Islands GPPOL.

GPPOL imposed a 48-hour lockdown for its premises in GPPOL 1, 2 and 3 not to disallow staff to work but to test how they will ensure operations continue despite a red alert warning in Solomon Islands.

GPPOL was one of the first companies to initiate its business continuity plans where they also initiated an alert level system using a simple chart to indicate the seriousness of the threat of COVID-19 in their community.

“Work is as usual here, except that we have imposed a red alert level here, indicating that COVID-19 is in the country. So, what we are doing during the lockdown here is just to also get our staff to get back into the procedure we have in place for a ‘red alert level’, Harris Giusaga, Tetere Estate Manager told Solomon Times Online when we paid a visit to their premises on Monday.

“It has been a while since we last tested our procedures so when the government’s simulated lockdown exercise came up, we decided to also do our own just to ensure that we are on the right track”, Giusaga says.

Having a continuity business plan in place is the advice from the Chair of the National Disaster Council (NDC) Dr. Melchior Mataki.

In the NDMO’s press conference a week prior to the lockdown, Mr. Mataki says it is eminent, businesses houses, small businesses, individuals and Solomon Islanders have a plan in place to ensure their operations are not disrupted by the impact of lockdowns and such.

“You never know what the future has so it is about time, businesses must seriously think about having a business continuity plan in place to ensure operations continue, even if we have future lockdowns from community transmission of COVID-19”, Mataki says.

Business continuity may be defined as the capability of an organization to continue the delivery of products or services following a disruptive incident.

Business continuity plan is the process of creating systems of prevention and recovery to deal with potential threats to a company. The goal is to enable ongoing operations before and during execution of disaster recovery.

GPPOL, because of its proximity outside of the emergency zones, was able to undertake this crucial exercise, pertinent to its response to this crisis. It is not known whether there are other businesses in Honiara who were able to also test their business continuity plans as only essential service providers and emergency services were allowed to move within the emergency zone.

“You know we need to keep the economy going” an economist and former Prime Minister, Gordon Darcy Lilo says.

“We cannot impose such stringent lockdowns on businesses. We will kill ourself”, Lilo told Solomon Times Online.

Natalina Hong, CEO of the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) says they are also worried for the wellbeing of the private sector if such a lockdown continues for a longer period of time.

Speaking to SIBC, Ms. Hong says already a lot of money is lost in the day’s lockdown simulation and the previous lockdown exercises.

But the government is headstrong that having preparedness plans like this in place now will mitigate the repercussions of the impact should COVID-19 ever enter the Solomon Islands community.

‘The devastation will be worse than what is being felt now in this simulated exercise’, Jonathan Tafiariki of NDMO told SIBC recently.

He says this simulated lockdown exercise is mainly to test government’s response plans should the country ever records a community transmission of COVID-19.

NDMO Director, Loti Yates says the feedback they receive will assist the government address the gaps not seen before in its response to a community transmission.