Coronavirus suspects tested

By Mike Puia

In Tigoa

THE four coronavirus suspects onboard a ship that arrived in Rennell, Renbel Province, on Saturday night were tested onboard the ship at Lavagu Bay on Monday 3rd February.

Over the last couple of days, reports of coronavirus suspects arriving in Rennell sparked widespread fear and uncertainty in the island.

In Lavagu Village, which hosted Rennell’s main sea port where the ship arrived, fear and uncertainty was rife.

The ship reportedly came from China. It arrived in Rennell to ship out raw bauxite ore extracted by Bintan Mining Company (BMC) in West Rennell.

According to a press statement by Bintan mining company, the ship was cleared at Noro Port in the Western Province before she arrived at Lavagu Bay.

According to information obtained by Tigoa police, the ship carried about 23 crews. Four of them reported high fever when the ship departed Noro Port on her way to Rennell.

Tigoa police rushed to Lavagu Bay on Saturday night after they received information that the potential coronavirus suspects have arrived. Police issued a directive that the ship leave the Bay immediately.

There was opposition to the directive but eventually the ship left on Sunday morning. The ship was to travel to Honiara for proper check.

On Sunday night, the Renbel provincial premier, Mr Willie Tuhagenga, revealed he was informed Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has instructed the ship to return to Lavagu Bay for check.

A chartered flight arrived in Tigoa yesterday morning. The air taxi brought two local medical personnel.

They had a brief meeting with Premier Tuhagenga upon arrival at Tigoa in which Premier Tuhagenga expressed serious concern about the health of his people and the reasons behind a directive to turn the ship back to Rennell for check.

Dr Pedical Togamae, one of the two local visiting medical personnel, confirmed in the meeting that as of Sunday evening the four suspects recorded improvements to their health conditions.

He said these information were based on information relayed to them by the Ship Master.

Togamae said it is highly likely that the suspects onboard the ship experienced normal fever and flu and not fever linked to coronavirus.

He said had the four suspects suffered from coronavirus, they should be very sick by now or anyone would, by now, had lost his life.

On the contrary, Togamae said the suspects are improving based on charts and reports sent to them by the Ship Master.

Togamae and his companion were escorted by Tigoa police to Lavagu Bay. The chartered air taxi waited for over six hours.

They boarded the ship yesterday under full mask and collected specimen from the suspects who are reportedly locked in a separate room onboard.

The specimens the duo collected were bottled and will be sent to Australia for thorough check and confirmation.

Togamae confirmed they also issued question forms to the suspects to answer.

He said these question forms will help them easily picked up any issue while waiting for the diagnose test done on them to rule out their status.

In Lavagu Village, movements are controlled. Villagers are not allowed to go to the seashore and those onboard the ship are not allowed to go ashore. Most wear simple precautionary masks.

Employees of the mining company (four locals and unknown number of Indonesians) who boarded the ship when it arrived were not allowed to leave the ship until the tests are cleared.

Based on information from the visiting medical personnel, the suspects have recovered and were seen on duty onboard yesterday which comes as a relief to many.

Togamae recommended that any incoming ship from China should be banned from landing in Rennell for safety reasons.

It appears clearance done in Noro Port only focused on quarantine without medical clearance.

He confirmed results of the samples they collected and sent to Australia will be made known in about three or four days.

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