By Taromane Martin
The Ministry of Health and Medical Services will continue COVID-19 testing on officials that had recently boarded the MV Papamau in Honiara.
Minister for Health and Medical Services, Honourable Dr Culwick Togamana said during his unexpected COVID-19 nationwide address last night, regarding MV Papamau crew members.
Dr Togamana said his Ministry was alerted that 13 of the ship’s 14 crew members had tested positive for COVID-19 in Nauru on its arrival from Honiara on Tuesday July 25th.
Togamana said a comprehensive risk assessment for all boarding parties, which included Customs, Health, Immigration, Biosecurity, Ship agents and the SI Ports boat captain was immediately conducted by the Ministry.
“Fellow citizens, ladies and gentlemen, residing in country and abroad. Thank you for tuning in to this rather unexpected nationwide address this evening,” he said.
“As your Minister for Health, it is my duty to provide timely information to all of us, especially in this time of public state of emergency and uncertainties in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic to prevent any unnecessary fear or panic, therefore this special address tonight.
“Fellow citizens, my ministry was alerted last night by one of the shipping agents, through the controller of customs of a foreign going vessel that 13 of its 14 crew members had tested positive for COVID-19 in Nauru on July 25th.
“These are crew members of MV Papamau that was offloading cargo in Honiara on 15th July and had left for Nauru on the same day.
“The vessel was boarded with one new crew member in Suva on 10th July before it set sail for Honiara. The crew member was tested negative for COVID-19 on 8th July, two days prior to boarding.
“All other 13 crew members that had been on the vessel had tested negative for COVID-19 on 21st June. The vessel left Fiji on 10th of July and arrived in Honiara port at 12 midday 14th July.
“The vessel was allowed to proceed for inward clearance at 8am the next day 15th July and outward clearance at 4pm on the same day.
“Prior to and upon arrival the exemption committee had assessed the vessel and allowed inward clearance to offload cargo after four and a half days quarantine at sea.
“The vessel went back to Nauru from Honiara where all crew members were swabbed and tested on the 25th of July, in which 13 out of the 14 tests generated positive results for COVID-19.
“With this information received, the Ministry immediately conducted a comprehensive risk assessment for all boarding parties, which included Customs, Health, Immigration, Biosecurity, Ship agents and the SI Ports boat captain.
“All individuals identified in the boarding operation to clear and offloading of the cargo have been contacted and moved to quarantine, with swabs collected and COVID-19 testing done at the National Referral Hospital Molecular Laboratory late this afternoon.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have the test results for all those that went on board with me. All tests came back negative.
“Swabbing is now being done for all Ports staffs which were on duty at that time the ship was in Honiara offloading. Praise be to God. Truly God has indeed come to our rescue,” the Minister for Health said.