Solomon Islands is not taking any chances when it comes to COVID-19. This was stressed by the Attorney General of Solomon Islands, John Muria Jnr.

Muria said people’s safety is of paramount importance and a priority for the government at this point in time.

Government stakeholders met with the media yesterday to highlight government’s activities to respond to the COVID-19 from reaching Solomon Islands.

“As you can see the FESTPAC in Hawaii has been cancelled. That decision is made for the safety of the people. At the moment, the safety of people in Solomon Islands is government’s priority”, Muria said.

Health Minister, Dickson Mua said the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) is working closely with their partners to address the issue of COVID-19.

Mua said MHMS is working closely with the Ministry of Commerce, office of the Prime Minister, WHO and other frontline stakeholders.

“The Ministry is also making sure that we are as prepared as we can be, if COVID-19 does reach Solomon Islands”, Mua said.

A COVID-19 operational plan was endorsed by cabinet last week. The operational plan summarizes activities the Health Ministry is undertaking.

“The Solomon Islands government is committed to keeping Solomon Islands protected against potential threats and has approved contingency warrant funds totaling 6.6million to support the MHMS COVID-19 prevention and preparedness activities”, Mua said.

In addition, Commerce Minister, Clezy Rore says it is important strict border controls are adhered to if Solomon Islands is to protect itself from COVID-19.

“The restrictions that have been put in place have been introduced in the interest of protecting the population of Solomon Islands. Travelers are asked to respect the restrictions put in place and not to take out any frustration that they may have on immigration staff”, Rore said.

For the World Health Organization (WHO), the focus is on preparing Solomon Islands for the worst case scenario.

“It is not a matter of if the new corona virus comes to Solomon Islands, but when”, WHO Country Representative to Solomon Islands, Dr. Sevil Huseynova said.

“The experience of other countries has been that, with all the screening measures in the world, they could not keep the virus out. That is because screening does not pick up people that are asymptomatic – people who show no symptoms – or people who have only mild illness. They are still infectious”, Huseynova said.

She said Solomon Islands must be ready for the first case, the first cluster of cases, the first evidence of community transmission and for dealing with ongoing community transmission, all at the same time.

If the virus ever comes through Solomon Islands, this is putting rural communities at a very precarious situation. Cumbered with lack of facilities and clinical human resources, the greatest challenge now is the country’s ability to curb the COVID-19 at the domestic level.

But this does not stop MHMS to activate their clinical standard operations procedures.

“For domestic measures we are not yet there at the moment in terms of the measures to be applied. We are activating our provincial health committees under the NDMO structure. Of course they do need support, not only in terms of capacity but also in financial support”, Permanent Secretary in the MHMS, Ms. Pauline McNeil said.

“Our community also needs to prepare in terms of stockpiling their goods or potatoes or their food. But we are not at that level yet”, she added.

Currently the focus of surveillance is at the two international seaports, Noro and Honiara as well as the Henderson International Airport.

Travelers from restricted countries are firmly denied entry into the Solomon Islands.

Immigration Director Mason Fugui said so far six passengers had been denied entry into the Solomon Islands since the surveillance operation was enforced.

He said immigration will continue to turn back travelers who come from restricted countries or travelers that do not comply with measures put in place by government of Solomon Islands.