SELF-isolation in the context of Honiara is not a solution, Opposition Leader Matthew Wale says.
In a statement today, the Leader of Opposition said many households in Honiara comprise two to three families crammed into small spaces.
He said it is not reasonable to expect isolation in such cramped situations and forced upon people by the lack of adequate isolation facilities.
Mr Wale said we cannot adopt self-isolation strategies from countries overseas where they only have 2 to 4 people in a household, thus easier for them to manage.
“Is this the response and preparedness solutions the Prime Minister and his Health Minister told Parliament recently? This is gross negligence by the health minister and the Prime Minister,” he said.
Mr Wale said the right thing for the Government to do is to immediately identify alternative isolation sites.
“Surely these were identified long ago as part of the preparedness plans for designation once an outbreak hits. Why are there none?” he questioned.
Opposition Leader Hon Wale said the result of their defensive arrogance in their recent statements in parliament is now clear before our eyes.
Mr. Wale said he was dismayed at the sight of crowds of people standing very close to each other in queues in front of ATMs, Western Union, shops, markets, bus stops, etc, with no thought for the need for social distancing.
“The imminence of the lockdown sent people into panic mode to get cash and shop for food. Surely preparedness plans would have anticipated that happening and have strategies in place to mitigate the risk of these queues becoming super spreader events,” Mr Wale said.
The Opposition Leader said the helpline 115 and others should also be manned as complaints have been raised that emergency calls have not been answered or attended to.
He said it is possible that staff manning these helplines are overworked and need to be given adequate rest.
Mr Wale said this should have been planned for.
“As a result there many who are sick at home and have simply given up on being tested,” he said.
On the issue of limited staff at the NRH, he said the Opposition made several calls 18 months ago to employ retired health professionals and to train additional lab and other required frontline personnel.
“The Government at that time said it was not a preferred option as they saw problems with it, and only a few days ago called for retired health personnel to come forward. This is not a sign of preparedness but reacting in panic. Even our lab personnel have not been able to get adequate rest since the start of the outbreak. This is unsustainable,” he said.
Mr Wale said testing is key to bringing the outbreak under control. And given our low vaccination rate, an extended lockdown of cluster locations is an effective strategy that cannot be ignored.
“Our response now should be focused on testing coupled with an expanded vaccination rollout throughout the country. Testing is key to bringing the outbreak under control. With only 180 tests possible in a day, it is clear the government has neglected this very important aspect of preparedness plans. Cases are likely now in the thousands, but we have no reasonable way of ascertaining the true extent of infections because we lack the capacity to do more tests. Surely the government should have included robust testing capacity in its preparedness plans. This is just negligence,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said the Health Minister recently told Parliament that there is no need for genomic sequencing capacity in the country.
“Now we are suffering the consequences of this negligent decision. Genomic testing will enable health authorities to know the variants we’re dealing with and their origins of them. The government is responding in a blind mode without such capacity. Again, this is negligence. This should have been part of the preparedness plans,” Wale said.
The Leader of Opposition said the government’s response so far is characterized by panic reactions and political rather than scientific solutions.
He said this betrays the lack of a well-thought-out response plan.
“ I am reiterating my earlier call that the $100m allocated to the Pacific Games in 2021 and any other funds from the prior years must be reallocated to healthcare immediately. How can the government justify spending more than $100m on sports when the lives of people are at risk? The government cannot prioritize the Games over healthcare. This is the negligence of the tallest order. It is irresponsible of the government to deprive healthcare of desperately needed funds and keep those scarce resources in Pacific Games” he said.
Mr Wale said this is not a blame game, it is about pointing out government shortfalls to enable a more robust response to the desperate situation caused by the exponential rise in covid infections in our country.
The Leader of Opposition also conveyed his sympathies to the families of the recent COVID-related deaths.
“Tragically there will be deaths. Even with the best preparations, there will be deaths. But in our situation, it is clear government’s so-called preparedness plans are inadequate to deal with the covid outbreak. The inadequacy of the government’s preparedness plans is exacerbating a terrible situation making it worse. The government needs to show a greater sense of responsibility, follow scientifically based advice, and reallocate adequate resources to healthcare” Hon Wale said.