BY CHARLES KADAMANA
NEW Zealand High Commission Office clarifies that the government has approved the residential compound at Panatina Ridge (Tanakake) in East Honiara as a quarantine site for returning NZ officials.
High Commissioner Georgina Roberts made the clarification following concern raised by residents of Panatina over seven New Zealanders being self-quarantined at the High Commissioner’s residence on Monday.
The seven Zealanders are part of a small number of New Zealand Government officials who arrived in the country on board a New Zealand Defence Force flight earlier this week.
Report reaching this paper said Tanakake residents were living in a state of panic and confusion following the New Zealanders’ arrival.
The residents said they were shocked late Monday afternoon upon seeing a convoy of police vehicles and private buses escorting what they later learnt were expats to the High Commission residential area – located inside the community.
“We are living in a state of panic, shock and confusion. There was no awareness by Health Officials, Police or even the New Zealand High Commission office of the arrivals and that they would be quarantined here.
“This is no quarantine site – whatever happened to all diplomats being quarantined at the hotels or the quarantine sites?” Chris Maelaua, speaking on behalf of concerned residents said.
Mr Maelaua said that they only learnt of the arrivals from security guards – who themselves claimed to have been confused.
“We were only told of this by the security guards who were manning the premises and the cleaners who were told to stop work.
“We are still in a state of emergency and responsible authorities should at least have the curtsey of informing that community when they will arrive, how we should react in avoiding any unnecessary state of panic or fear like we are now facing,” Maelaua said.
Fellow resident Ronnie Sade said that the distance between the High Commission Residence and their house is very close – describing it merely three metres.
“Our house and that of which one of the quarantined families are residing at is not really far. We are only separated by a fence. Fortunately, covid-19 is not airborne otherwise we would all be infected, supposedly any of the New Zealanders carries the virus,” Mr Sade said.
He however said that the risks are still too high, adding that many of the residents are continuously living in panic and fear.
Similar sentiments were echoed by other residents of the community – some even posted on social media, questioning responsible authority’s lack of public awareness, and calling for responsible authorities to transfer the nationals to quarantine sites.
“These diplomats should be transferred to proper assigned quarantine sites immediately because we are indeed scared, our children are scared – the entire community is scared of the risks that the covid-19 pandemic may pose on all of us,” Maelaua said.
Meanwhile, New Zealand’s High Commissioner said they regret that the community was not adequately informed about this before the residents returned.
“We are aware that there was a degree of community concern about the arrival of our people at the New Zealand residential compound in Panatina Ridge on Monday afternoon.
“We have consequently spent time this morning (yesterday), alongside Ministry of Health and Medical Services officials, speaking with all the immediate neighbours in the community. We appreciate the community’s willingness to engage on this, and we were pleased to be able to address their queries,” the High Commissioner said.
She said they have been working actively to address the concern on 1st July and will continue to stay in touch with the neighbourhood, where the New Zealand High Commission has maintained the residence for years.
“We are observing the quarantine guidelines set by the Solomon Islands government through the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and residents are being closely monitored by health authorities,” the High Commissioner said.
She said all NZ residents completed health screening before departing NZ and on arrival on Monday.
She said the residents understand they are in quarantine and will not interact with anyone but relevant authorities.
She recommends anyone with concern about covid-19 to contact the MHMS health line.