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Choiseul province government sets up barricade as covid-19 looms closer

BY BARNABAS MANEBONA

AS covid-19 edges closer to Solomon Islands, with Bougainville registering its first case, the Choiseul province is taking no chances and passing resolutions to defend its shores.

Choiseul Provincial Executive endorsed 17 resolutions regarding the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) threat high at the western border of Solomon Islands.

Most important one amongst these resolutions is a ‘declaration of Choiseul Province as an emergency zone’ by the Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.

This is a serious action that must be taken according to Choiseul’s Executive government. Much of national government’s preparedness activities have been focussed on the Western province, especially Shortlands.

The Papua New Guinea (PNG) National Control Centre for COVID-19 was reported confirming one new positive case of COVID-19 last Friday from Bougainville.

After going through a two-days (Saturday and Sunday) meeting over the weekend looking into the resolutions presented by the disaster committee of the province, Choiseul Province Executive Government endorsed it. After approval by the Prime Minister before recommendations will be carried out said the Choiseul Executive, starting with awareness.

A statement from Choiseul Province provincial Executive government yesterday said the province has to be proactive in response, and put measures to facilitate their preparedness in terms of border monitoring and surveillance establishment of infrastructure and services that are still lacking.

Restrictions of travels and movements, improvement of social distancing, and other measures to protect the people in Choiseul and Solomon Islands is a must from intrusion of the COVID-19 deadly virus from PNG through the ‘SI border’.

The seventeen resolutions endorsed yesterday by the Choiseul Provincial Assembly Executive are; “1: the national government must declare all around Choiseul Province and at Taro and the vicinity as an emergency zone immediately, and this should be guided forthwith.

“2: The national government to financially support Choiseul Province to build necessary infrastructure like quarantine and isolation centres immediately without further delay.

“3: The Shortland people should not be allowed to come to Choiseul Province for marketing and other businesses since they are usually in contact with Bougainville people using the same territory for fishing, commercial and other traditional tie activities.

“This also include such as restriction on shipping services that what will come to Choiseul connecting from Shortland. Shipping services must make sure that they come to Choiseul first before going to the Shortlands and not the other way around, or only travel to Choiseul.

 “4: For security purposes, the PRT component of the RSIPF should be stationed at Supizae island and let alone the PRT station there do the relevant activity for Choiseul rather than the PRT stationed at the border which is a very big area to cover confined to station in Shortlands, Western Province. This includes government officers, those working or deployed at Choiseul Province and the Shortlands should not cross islands.

“5: That curfew is enforced on outboard motors travelling in Choiseul Province. See jurisdiction as from 6pm to 6am, except for emergency or authorised to do so.

“6: That a provincial wide awareness be conducted regarding declared emergency zones and relay messages of COVID-19 measures.

“7: That mass gathering is discouraged and that social distancing maintains.

“8: People that do nothing at Taro station, Supizae and surrounding areas must be encouraged to return to their respective home villages immediately.

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“9: That a port of entry be established at Taro, proposed at the police station area. This is especially for those that want to travel to Taro from outside.

“10: Families are educated and encouraged to stay at their homes.

“11: All sport activities at Taro Township is stopped with immediate effect.

“12: Community movement in Taro Township be restricted.

“13: Movement within communities is restricted.

“14: No movement at Taro Township after 10pm. Only those in the essential services.

“15: Street lights in Taro are installed to ensure clear visibility during night measures.

“16: Churches to discourage church activities due to lack of social distancing.

“17: For markets, cooked foods are to be sold with restrict measures. All products even including betel-nuts are to be sold in packets or plastics only and social distancing, washing and keeping the areas clean will be applied. This is especially for such areas as at the market. Market times will only be from 6am to 6pm. sleeping in the market area is also prohibited.”

It is understood that zonings to be organised by the protection committee will take place and restrictions on health measure exercises in public places at Taro will be carried out and must make sure to be followed.

According to ‘Solomon Times’ on Saturday, “PNG’s National Control Centre for COVID-19 confirmed 25 new positive cases of COVID-19 today, 24 from the national capital and 1 from Bougainville.

“The positive COVID-19 case in Bougainville is a 22-year-old student who travelled from Port Moresby to Bougainville recently. More details of the youth will be announced later following contact tracing.”

Choiseul’s Assembly government from great fear of the first COVID-19 case reported at Bougainville had to quickly come up with their recommendations.

Deputy Premier for Choiseul Province Hon Nerio Ulemiki also speaking to this paper yesterday said all these times the national government has been talking about preparedness and now is the time to see how effective the country’s preparedness is when there is a serious threat right at the border.

“The quicker we endorse all our resolutions the better as continuous keeping in contact with Bougainville people has been a very usual practise between Choiseul, Bougainville, and the Western province posing great risk. Bougainville people are very smart in coming through the border on a blind eye too which is one of fearing concerns,” said Ulemiki.

Chairman of the covid-19 Oversight Committee, James Remobatu in his message issued earlier advised everyone living along the western border to must now play their part to ensure COVID-19 does not enter Solomon Islands.

Remobatu said the western border now poses the highest risk of transmission of COVID-19 into the country.

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