PRE-LOCKDOWN STATEMENT BY HON. PRIME MINISTER
HON. MANASSEH D SOGAVARE
WEDNESDAY 20 MAY 2020
My Fellow Solomon Islanders,
My People living in the Honiara Emergency Zone from Alligator Creek to Poha River,
My People Living in Guadalcanal Province East of Alligator Creek and West of Poha river
Good morning to you all
In less than 8 hours, the Honiara Emergency Zone will go into lockdown for 36 hours commencing at 6pm this evening until 6am Friday 22nd May 2020.
Fellow citizens throughout the country, and in particular those living within the Honiara emergency zone, and just outside the Honiara emergency zone, I humbly ask you all for your support and cooperation to make this lockdown period successful.
Many citizens have questioned whether we need to do a lockdown in order to be better prepared to tackle COVID-19 in the unlikely event we have a single case of COVID-19.
Some people are complaining about their rights and the inconveniences to their lives as a result of the lockdown. I ask these people to spare a thought to the rights of our frontline workers whose rights are being sacrificed to protect all of us and our nation. The lockdown will enable all our front liners have to sharpen their skills, so that while they protect us, they too must ensure they practice how not to get infected by COVID-19.
I appeal to all citizens who feel your rights are being neglected to think seriously about the rights of our front liners to be able to protect their lives and the lives of their loved ones as they protect all of us from COVID-19 by testing their SOPs and capabilities to ensure they work, not only to you who feel deprived of your rights, but all of us, our country, themselves as individual workers and their families. Please note these are the people who are sacrificing all their rights for us, so that we can be assured of our safety should COVID-19 reach our shores.
Some people suggested that we can just do a desktop mock exercise to test and sharpen out standard operation procedures.
My government has asked itself the same questions, and we come to the conclusion that with a disease as infectious, serious and dangerous as COVID-19, we cannot gamble with our people’s lives and pretend that a simple desktop exercise will give us all we need to know, and highlight all the deficiencies and shortcomings of our untried SOPs in the event we have a real case of COVID-19 in our country. We must test our capabilities through this lockdown.
Fellow citizens, globally countries are starting to relax the stringent restrictions they imposed on their people internally. Many countries are also now cautiously opening their international borders. We are cautiously opening our borders from next week, primarily to repatriate our fellow citizens that had been stranded overseas over the past two months.
The re-opening of borders does pose a risk of importing COVID-19. This is the reason we had to wait until the Ministry of Health and Medical Services had developed in-country capability to test COVID-19 in the country.
Fellow citizens, I am pleased to advise we now have full capability to test for COVID-19 in the country.
Achieving this key capability is the reason we are now able to schedule repatriation flights of our stranded citizens commencing next week.
It is also the reason we have been able to relax restrictions on schools, so that by next Monday, all classes in all schools throughout the country will be back to full operation. The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development is working with all Education Authorities to ensure social distancing guidelines and personal hygiene SOPs are observed in all schools.
Our in-country testing capability is also the reason we have been able to relax restrictions on businesses in the emergency zone.
So, my fellow citizens with the opening up of our borders and recommencing of normal school and business hours, it is important that we execute a lockdown period to:
- Allow government through its frontline agencies to:
- Test our preparedness and the appropriateness of our Standard Operating procedures to deal with COVID-19 infections,
- To check and identify shortcomings in our processes and correct and strengthen our capacity to identify, isolate and quarantine any suspected case of COVID-19,
- To undertake contact-tracing on any person that had come into contact with the key suspect and isolate and quarantine these contacts for the simple reason that we must isolate and contain any potential infection to prevent it from spreading to surrounding communities
- Check our readiness and our public’s readiness if a lockdown is done when we are back to normal working hours, schools, and business hours to assess the effectiveness of COVID-19 measures on schools, businesses, and normal work,
My fellow citizens, especially those that live inside the Honiara emergency zone from Alligator Creek in the east to Poha River in the west, I reiterate that the whole capital city will be in complete lockdown from 6pm Wednesday evening 20th May, until 6am Friday morning, 22nd May 2020.
During this period:
- All residents living inside the emergency zone must remain in your respective homes and do not leave your residences until after 6am on Friday morning, 22 May 2020.
- No one is allowed, to travel into Honiara from outside, or travel out of Honiara,
- The seaport and airport in Honiara will be closed throughout the lockdown period
- No exemptions will be given to retail and wholesale businesses over the 36 hours. The purpose for the lockdown is to keep every everybody home. All businesses will close with effect 2 pm this afternoon except businesses that have been identified as part of the essential services and reopen on Friday morning.
- Special considerations will only be accorded to business where regular checks need to be conducted during the lockdown period on key installations or equipment to ensure these do not breakdown.
- Only the following Emergency and Essentials services will be allowed to operate during the lockdown period:
- Ministry of Health and Medical Services
- Royal Solomon Islands Police Force
- Correctional Services Solomon Islands
- National Disaster Management Office
- Solomon Islands Red Cross
- St John Ambulance
- Marine Search & Rescue
- Solomon Islands Meteorological Services
- Utilities – Water, Power and Telecommunications
- SIBC and FM Radio Stations
- CBSI and Commercial Banks
- Selected officials from Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Infrastructure.
- For anyone in the emergency lockdown zone or in Guadalcanal province on either side of Alligator Creek and Poha River that is seriously sick and requires urgent medical attention during the lockdown period please contact the Police Operations Centre, St Johns Ambulance, or the National referral Hospital and they will arrange immediate assistance and / or transport you to the hospital.
Fellow citizens let me close by reiterating that the lockdown is only for the Honiara emergency zone. The rest of the country continues normal business throughout the week.
Allow me to also highlight several important timelines in relation to the lockdown arrangements as follows:
- By 12 midday today, the public service in Honiara closes. All public servants in Honiara are advised to leave their workplaces and do essential shopping and head for your respective homes.
- By 12 midday today – all schools in the Honiara emergency zone will close. They will reopen at Friday 22 May 2020.
- By 2pm this afternoon, all businesses in the Honiara Emergency zone will close to allow clients, employees, and business owners to travel home. All businesses will remain close until Friday morning, 22 May 2020.
- By 2 pm this afternoon, the Honiara central market will close to allow vendors clients and to travel home. The central market will reopen on Friday morning.
- For Domestic Ship operators:
- An Emergency Powers (Covid-19) (Restriction of Movement of Vessels in Emergency Zone) Order 2020 has been signed to restrict movement of vessels and small crafts into and out of the Honiara Emergency Zone and is being published in the Gazette.
- The Vessel’s order requires that a vessel must not
(a) enter the Port of Honiara; or
(b) come along side or berth at a wharf; or
(c) come into the shore anywhere along the coast of the emergency zone; or
(d) permit or enable any person on board the vessel to disembark from the vessel and go ashore anywhere on the coast of the emergency zone.
- All domestic ships coming into Honiara must arrive no later than 2pm this afternoon.
- All domestic ships sailing from Honiara, must leave Honiara no later than 2pm this afternoon.
- All domestic ship operations will reopen after 8 am on Friday morning, 22 May 2020 – to ensure people do not break the lockdown to get to ships early.
- Domestic Vessels must comply with these Orders as a breach of these Orders constitute an Offence under the Regulations.
- For Solomon Airlines:
- All domestic flights into Honiara must arrive by 2pm this afternoon.
- Timing of all domestic flights on Friday 22 May 2020 must consider the end of lockdown at 6am Friday morning 22 May 2020.
- Buses and Taxis – All buses and taxis must be off the road before 5.30pm this afternoon. Any bus or taxi running at 6pm, even if going home will be arrested by police.
- General Honiara public – please ensure you are all at your homes before 6pm this evening.
- Backroads – Please be reminded that this is a complete lockdown. All roads are closed including all backroads in Honiara.
- House Visiting during lockdown – Please be advised no house visiting is allowed during the lockdown period.
My good people, I close by once again asking our citizens and all residents living in the Honiara Emergency Zone to observe the 36-hour lockdown of our Capital city seriously.
Please make sure you have adequate food and water to cover the lockdown period, medications for those on regular medications, adequate power, telephone top-up to call, fuel and other essential household necessities.
And remember, the best way in which we can assist the RSIPF and the Ministry of Health do their work during the lockdown period is to remain in our own homes throughout the 36 hours of lockdown.
Fellow citizens throughout our beloved country, I ask you all to continue to pray for our nation that our Loving God will continue to spare us from COVID-19.
Fellow citizens let us work together to ensure COVID-19 does not invade our shores, but if it does, let us work together to defeat and eradicate it. This lockdown is a critical component of our preparedness plan to defeat COVID-19.
Our battle cry is – ‘In God we Trust – Iumi tugeda against COVID-19’.
May God Bless us all
May God Bless Solomon Islands from Shore to Shore.