Enemy at the gate

Honiara International Airport. Photo by Alfred Pagepitu.
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Government faces difficult options over calls for total ban on incoming travels


SHOULD Solomon Islands just put a blanket ban on all incoming flights and ships? There is no simple answer to this as government works around the clock to find a solution amid growing calls from a nervous public and an imminent entry by the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).

As of late, government is trying to avoid simply just putting a total ban on incoming flights and ships since this will have “major adverse impact on trade, economy, legal and other areas”.

Instead, an oversight committee seated at the Prime Minister’s office chaired by the Secretariat to the Cabinet is looking at “other” options available to them, in search for which one will have the least negative impact on the country.

Dr Jimmy Rodgers, Special Secretary to Prime Minister, said the oversight committee has “looked into all the options that they could take, ranging from a complete lock-down of the country to just self-quarantine, and in between, there are a number of options and these options have different implications.

“So, for instance when you talking about locking down of the country you really gonna answer the questions how much of our survival depends on our trade outside of this country but there is also a much bigger picture than for close down questions,” said Mr Rodgers.

He assured public that the committee is conducting assessments on the implications associated with the options, conducting economic assessment to ensure there is no economic viability in these options and social assessments to see the impacts on public.  

Rodgers said Solomon Islands is learning from other countries’ experiences to help assist in making decisions which will not undermine the country’s capacity in dealing with COVID-19.

He said the committee also got the ministries of Agriculture and Fisheries to assess food capability, assess shops to see what are in the shops, how long will the supplies last as the country talks about locking down.

Pauline McNeil, Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Health, said with this option they are trying to ensure and take into account the implications on our trade and the economy.

“If we are to restrict all flights or have a lock down for instance, we may have other health implications like we won’t be able to send our samples to Australia for testing, we may not be able to have our emergency supplies on time.

“These are the implications that may come on board so we are looking at the various scenarios to what best fits for our situation,” she said.

Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Commerce, Industries, Labour and Immigration, Mr Riley Mesepitu said, “At moment we are liaising with the ministry of Health to give us instructions when exactly are we going to move into banning of flights coming into Solomon Islands.”

These sentiments were echoed at a joint talk back show focusing on Coroanvuris-19 held over the weekend at the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC) in Honiara.