Solomon Islands Opposition leader cautions government on delta preparedness

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Solomon Islands leader of Opposition, Matthew Wale has cautioned the government to tread very carefully and adopt a zero risk approach in its preparedness for further repatriation flights that are likely to introduce the delta variant into Solomon Islands.

Wale made this call in response to the Prime Minister’s statement on Monday this week that the government has assessed the safety and preparedness of our quarantine stations to contain delta within the perimeters of the quarantine stations.

The Opposition Leader however, said the ideal situation is that delta is not allowed into the country at all.

“If that is the ideal then it is important that SOPs are framed towards achieving it. From experience so far, early tests can be misleading in that some cases can return negative test results even when they are infected. At the very least, it is important that the Prime Minister clearly explains to the nation what additional preparations have been made that gives him the confidence that delta can be contained within quarantine stations if it is imported,” said Wale.

The Opposition Leader further calls on the government to be wary of the ‘lambda variant’ now making headway in South America and in at least 120 countries, adding that this is reported to be also highly transmissible and may be resistant to vaccines.

If this is true, Wale said it is important that the government regularly conducts risk analysis to ensure that there is zero risk in importing this variant.

The Opposition Leader said it is also important that the government develop the capacity locally to do genome sequencing to identify the types of variants, as this will have a direct impact on the type and severity of responses.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said Solomon Islands has one of the best pre-departure screening processes for incoming travelers and incoming vessels anywhere in the world.

Speaking in during his weekly nationwide address, Monday, Sogavare said he was been informed about that, and this is where the country’s strength lies.

“Because our capacity to manage community transmission is limited, our focus is to stop the virus entering the country or eliminating it at the border quarantine stations.

“The current suspension on incoming passengers has allowed us to review and reset these measures to make them even more effective considering the virulence of the Delta Variant of Covid-19,” he said.

In addition to that, PM Sogavare said a new shipping advisory will be released later this week outlining new measures for some classes of foreign vessels coming into the country or domestic ships that travel out of the country and return to the country.

“On this note let me reassure you all that every single foreign vessel that enters our country undergoes a Covid-19 risk assessment by the Oversight Committee’s Vessel Exemption Committee.

“This committee determines the level of risk on the vessel and makes decisions in relation to the timing of inward clearance,” he said.

Further to that he said, where the committee has concerns about COVID-19 it can authorise COVID-19 testing to be done on some or all crew members before inward clearance is authorised.

SOURCE: SOLOMON STAR/PACNEWS