Opening door to Covid-19

Honiara International Airport Terminal.
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-Country’s entry checkpoints compromised due to disagreement among Government frontline agencies

-Civil Aviation Ministry and Customs oppose shutdown

By Alfred Sasako

INTERNAL disagreement amongst frontline Government agencies guarding against the entry of the deadly coronavirus is reportedly allowing people returning from overseas to avoid the requisite tests at the Henderson International Airport.

The Ministry of Health and Medical Services is said to be very concerned given that cases of the deadly disease have been confirmed in neighbouring Pacific Island Countries such as Fiji, New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea.

As of Saturday, Fiji and New Caledonia have reported two confirmed cases each while PNG has one confirmed case.

Sources have told Island Sun that while a total shutdown of international flights is under consideration, sections within the government frontline agencies have opposed the idea.

Those opposing a total shutdown are said to be the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Communications and the Customs Division of the Ministry of Commerce, Industries, Labour and Immigration. No explanation was given for their position.

As a result of the disagreement, some travelers have avoided being subjected to the prescribed checks at the airport. This attitude has raised concerns about the impending threat from the virus.

For example, last week a senior official of one of the commercial banks arrived from Australia and went straight to work. Angry and nervous staff reported this to the Minister of Health and Medical Services, Dickson Mua Pakinitasi, who had confirmed the incident.

It is unclear whether the Ministry has spoken to the man, an Australian national.

Earlier a group of 20 Solomon Islands’ student returning from the Philippines did likewise, prompting the Ministry of Health and Medical Services to order an investigation into their whereabouts.

It is not clear whether the students have been found. It is also unclear whether they have been ordered to undergo a 14-day quarantine imposed by the government.

Imported cases of the coronavirus – that is people who caught the virus by visiting countries with the infection – is now the new threat from this global pandemic. In China where it all began last December, in-country infection has ceased but there were 65 new imported cases were reported last Friday.

Meanwhile foreigners living in Honiara began leaving the country yesterday. Their self evacuation was in response to calls by their governments that non-essential staff should consider returning home.

The largest group of evacuees are said to be from Australia.

Island Sun was unable to check the latest figures on the coronavirus cases in the region because of difficulties with internet connectivity.