The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) is investigating 4 people at Pelau village in Ontong Java suspected of COVID-19 infection.

"If these people are confirmed to have COVID-19 infection, the risk of community transmission is extremely high.

"The 4 suspected positive cases are close contacts of the 10 people who illegally entered our borders on Sunday 9th of January 2022 and landed at Pelau village, Ontong Java from Tasman Island of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

"Upon receiving reports of the illegal entry, health with support from the RSIPF deployed a team of four people to undertake urgent contact tracing and conduct rapid COVID-19 tests [Rapid Antigen Tests – RATs]," the MHMS said in a prepared statement.

They say 19 close contacts were also identified and tested together with the 10 illegal border crossers.

To date a total of 29 people were tested on 15th January 2022. 4 close contacts of the 10 illegal border crossers tested positive using the RAT test.

"As these results are only indicative, all the 29 tests swabs will be transferred to Honiara on 16th January for assessment using the GeneXpert machine to rule out false positives, which sometimes occur with RATs.

"The Oversight Committee convened an emergency meeting on the evening of 15th January 2022 at the request of the National Health Emergency Operation Centre (NHEOC).

"It reviewed the current information and approved a series of interventions including the deployment of necessary medical supplies, equipment, tools, and human resources," the statement said.

NDMO will deploy camp management staff and RSIPF will increase its staff complement at Ontong Java within the week.

A helicopter has been arranged to travel to Ontong Java today to retrieve and transfer the swabs for all 29 people. Any other person that may have been in contact with the 4 people that tested positive will also be swabbed and their swabs transferred to Honiara.

Health is also liaising with Solomon Islands Maritime Administration (SIMA) and other relevant authorities to review ships that may have travelled to and from MOI since 9th of January.

One vessel, MV Solomons Prestige 2 was directed to return to Honiara to ensure no one goes into Ontong Java until further notice.

In the meantime, an Immediate suspension of movement into and out of Ontong Java, will shortly be enforced which means no ships and boats can travel into or out of Ontong Java until further notice.