PRIME MINISTER MANASSEH SOGAVARE, MP
FRIDAY 22ND MAY 2020
Fellow Solomon Islanders, it is with great humility that I stand before you today to deliver my weekly nationwide address.
It has been five months since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and a few days shy of 2 months being in a State of Public Emergency.
Yet, this fight is yet not over.
My good people, the pandemic has taught the global community and humankind many lessons. It has tested our way of life, questioned the things we take for granted, and most importantly it has taught us the significance of being united as a country.
It is my deepest conviction that the most valuable lesson that this pandemic has taught us is that we can and we will win this battle but only through unity and solidarity.
This pandemic has given us patriotic, peace loving and law abiding citizens of our beloved nation the opportunity to search deep down within ourselves and reflect upon what are the really important things that we hold dear to us.
And I believe ‘UNITY’ is the reason why Solomon Islands is still standing tall as a COVID-19 free country around the world.
We are COVID-19 free because of the cooperation, understanding and the respect for the rule of law that you have demonstrated.
Fellow Solomon Islanders, your democratically elected government is overwhelmingly and will forever be grateful to you.
Call for Unity and Stability
Fellow Solomon Islanders, there are recent commentaries in the media alleging that this Government is using the State of Emergency to politicise certain issues.
These commentaries are not based on facts but rather on speculations, and in some cases just outright lies.
Now is not the time for politics.
Therefore, I call on all Members of Parliament, Provincial Governments and citizens to leave petty politics aside and to be united to fight this common enemy.
Fellow citizens, COVID-19 is an enemy that takes no political sides, it takes no prisoners.
The constitutionality or otherwise of the laws made under the State of Public Emergency is a matter for the courts to decide.
As a democratic country that upholds the rule of law let us follow due process in questioning these issues.
The doctrine of separation of powers remains intact and so does the principle of mutual respect between the three arms of the state.
The right place to test these questions is the court of law and not the court of public opinion.
These are technical legal questions that only the judiciary can answer.
I encourage us to be responsible.
Fellow citizens, on Wednesday this week, we have also witnessed a historic event as we officially received and launched the COVID-19 testing equipment and a new molecule lab.
This means we are now 100 percent capable to test for COVID-19 here in Honiara.
We will no longer send samples overseas for testing and this is welcoming for our Government and people.
But this would not be possible with the help of our development partners.
Thus, I must acknowledge our development partners especially Australia and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for providing the two qPCR machines.
Apart from the qPCR machines, we also have an additional GeneXpert machine, which will also be used to test for COVID-19.
Unlike the qPCR machines, which can do multiple tests, the GenXpert machine can only test one sample at a time using cartridges.
The machines are now installed in a molecule lab and ready to be used.
With these new PCR machines, we can now test for COVID-19 from 500 to 1000 tests a day using the PRC machines within 5 hours.
It is also pleasing to note that we have our very own local doctors and experts that will take full control of the equipment’s.
Economic Stimulus Package
Fellow Solomon Islanders in our fight against the COVID19 pandemic, the government has not lost sight of its responsibility.
The Government is fully aware of its responsibility to ensure fiscal stability and to counter negative growth within the domestic economy while also safeguarding the basic needs and livelihood of our population.
The stimulus package of SBD319 Million with its implementation framework and guidelines will facilitate the disbursement of funding allocations.
The call for submissions to access the stimulus package will be published from Monday 25th of May and over the next two weeks.
This package is aimed at boosting the economic activities in the rural areas and give back hope to businesses that have taken the economic hit from COVID-19
Good Citizens, just recently the Government has issued a Travel Advisory Notice No.3 to all stranded Solomon Islands citizens on the Government’s plans for Repatriation.
The Government is pleased to announce that Solomon Airlines will be operating special flights from Australia, Vanuatu and Fiji purposely to repatriate stranded nationals overseas as of next week.
The first repatriation flight is now confirmed for Tuesday 26th May from Honiara to Brisbane and back to Honiara.
Our citizens stranded in New Zealand are advised to contact the Solomon Islands High Commission in Wellington, for further information.
The second repatriation flight for stranded nationals in Fiji and Vanuatu is scheduled for Wednesday 27th May. However, this is subjected to Fiji granting us clearance for Solomon Airlines to enter Fiji. Negotiations are currently underway to confirm this date.
All nationals who will be boarding these scheduled flights must have valid Solomon Airlines tickets.
Foreign nationals wishing to travel to Solomon Islands require prior approval from the Government.
The Solomon Islands Government is taking all necessary preventive measures against any potential entry of COVID-19 into the country.
Therefore, it is the Government’s standing health protocol to have all returning passengers from overseas undergo strict screening on arrival at the Honiara International Airport.
All repatriated citizens and returning residents will undergo mandatory quarantine at identified quarantined facilities.
The Government also strongly urged all returning passengers both local and foreign nationals to comply with the standard protocols and health requirements put down by the Government.
That said, I take this opportunity to register my heartfelt gratitude to all our overseas friends for ensuring our stranded citizens are given all the care they need when abroad.
The second wave
Fellow Solomon Islanders, the World Health Organisation on Monday this week has warned countries to wary of the second wave of COVID-19 infections.
That said, it is important to note that we still do not have a vaccine yet.
As countries around the world emerge from the lockdown and ease their restrictions, the WHO has warned that countries should brace themselves for a deadly second wave of infections.
The WHO has cautioned and I quote ‘now is the time for preparation, not celebration”, end of quote.
The WHO has warned that countries should not be celebrating as restrictions are lifted but must remain cautious.
Despite the fall in the number of cases worldwide especially Europe, the WHO has warned that the pandemic is not over.
My good people, the alarm raised by WHO should not be taken lightly as countries that have recovered from the virus have started to record new cases.
Fellow Solomon Islanders, this is why we must never let our guard down and assume that we are okay.
The current State of Public Emergency and the Orders imposed are solely done to protect our good citizens of this country.
The travel restrictions, border closures and lockdowns are all part of our ongoing preparedness and capability protocols.
On Wednesday the WHO recorded an increase of 106, 000 cases within a 24 hour period.
This is the largest increase in a single day since the outbreak began. We are now fast approaching the 5 million mark.
Fellow Solomon Islanders, this fight is far from over.
We will never be safe until a vaccine is developed and the World Health Organization finally declares the pandemic as over.
36 hours lockdown
Fellow Citizens, as of 6am this morning (Friday 22nd May 2020) 36 hours lockdown has ceased by operation of law.
The lockdown was enforced from Wednesday 20th May 2020 until 6am today, within the Honiara Emergency Zone from Poha River to Alligator Creek.
As I have stated in my statement before the lockdown, the lockdown was to enable all our front liners to sharpen their skills, so that while they protect us, they too must ensure that they too do not to get infected.
The purpose of the 36 hours lockdown was also to test the Government’s capability to respond if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the country.
Yesterday the “Eksasaes Aelan Lokdaon” was carried out and completed by 7pm last night. This was a simulated exercise on several scenarios should we record our first COVID-19 positive case.
The exercise included contact tracing and the preparedness of our frontline. This was not a desktop exercise. It was done in real time in an actual lockdown environment, even though it was only for 36 hours.
Our safe food chain was also put into operational to test our capacity to feed our people in the event of a prolonged lockdown should the need arise.
I would like to thank our Exercise Control Team for a superb job in putting together and controlling the exercise during the lockdown.
I also extend the appreciation of this Government to the Red Cross volunteers who volunteered as role players in this exercise. Thank you UNDP for hosting the Exercise Control Team. This is much appreciated.
Authorities have identified gaps during this exercise. Each N-DOC sector committees have already conducted debriefings and evaluation of performance of the exercise. A full N-DOC all sector committees are currently having their joint de-brief now.
On Monday a multi stakeholders workshop on the exercise will be held and a report will be submitted to the COVID-19 Oversight Committee by close of business on that same day.
On this note, I would like to acknowledge all our front liners for undertaking a successful Standard Operating Procedure to test our preparedness plans.
As front liners, you have displayed a great deal of professionalism and commitment to serve our beloved nation. You have our utmost respect and gratitude.
I must also express my gratitude on behalf of the Government to our hardworking and committed personnel from various Government and Non- Government Agencies for the hard work and commitment shown during the recent lockdown period.
But most importantly, I must express my sincere acknowledgement to the citizens of this country especially within the Honiara Emergency Zone.
Thank you for your patience, understanding and the continuous unifying spirit shown during the 36hrs lockdown.
The response by the general public was overwhelming and your Government thanks you.
The lockdown has served its purpose. The only way we can keep this virus out is for us to be always two steps ahead.
I am optimistic that with our united stand and with God’s Grace and Mercy, we can stop this global pandemic from entering our beloved country.
Fellow Solomon Islanders, to conclude, I would like to reassure all of us that it is the sole priority of the Government to keep our people safe.
The Government welcomes criticisms and recommendations from the Opposition and the public at large.
However, during these unprecedented times, the Government needs the support of each and every one of you.
This is our fight and the Government has nothing to hide because this COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most dangerous challenges this world has ever faced; and we must fight it together.
I believe once we have finally turned the page on this epidemic, we must take time to reflect on the challenges and lessons learned.
This will be essential to effectively address similar challenges, as they may arise in the future.
But now is the time for unity and solidarity.
We are one people, we are one nation, we are Solomon Islands.
This fight is ours, “UMI TUGEDA AGAINST COVID 19”.
Tagio tumas and May God Bless Solomon Islands from shore to shore.