SOLOMON Islands cannot afford to be locked away from the rest of the world forever.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare highlighted this during his nationwide address this week.
He said the country’s economic survival depends on our ability to trade and allowing entry of people that bring investment into the country.
Sogavare said the big question that is driving the Government’s policy on maximum COVID-19 vaccination now is – ‘what percentage of our eligible population must be vaccinated before we can re-open our borders to the outside world, without travel restrictions and without the need for prolonged quarantine on arrival into the country?’.
“We cannot afford to stay locked up forever,” the Prime Minister said.
He said many countries around the world have reopened their borders because they achieved nearly 100 percent vaccination coverage of their eligible population.
In other words, he said if Solomon Islands is to reopen its borders, we must aim to achieve between 80 – 100 percent vaccination coverage of our total eligible population by a certain date.
“We have heard Fiji will reopen its borders by 1st of November this year and perhaps even earlier. Australia will reopen its borders by the end of this year. They will benefit from international trade and tourism and business-related travel that Solomon Islands will miss out on because of our extremely low vaccination rate,” he said.
Sogavare said he has directed the Oversight Committee to accord serious thinking on the possible timing and date we should target to reopen our borders and the conditions we must achieve to do so.
He said agreeing a target date to re-open our borders will also help our drive to achieve our vaccination coverage target of between 80 – 100 percent of the total eligible population for vaccination.
“If the country does not achieve this level of coverage before we reopen our borders, we will have less of a chance to prevent rapid community transmission of the virus in the event it enters the country and gets into our communities,” he said.
Sogavare said it has now come to the point where we must think seriously about reopening our borders.
He said this is to help revive our economy while at the same time ensuring we protect our population from COVID-19.
“This discussion will involve wide consultations with the private sector and business houses, provincial governments, our churches, and our communities,” he said.