Shipping operators defend safety measures over covid-19 cases

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Shipping companies and ports authorities in the Pacific have defended their coronavirus measures after they were criticised for bringing COVID-19 to Solomon Islands and Kiribati.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare blasted shipping companies after two new COVID-19 cases were detected among the crew of the PNG-registered MV Kopi Chief in Honiara.

Mr Sogavare said it was the third time a shipping company had brought COVID-19 to Solomon Islands.

But David Toua from Steamships Trading, which owns MV Kopi Chief, told the ABC that all COVID-19 safety protocols were followed before the MV Kopi left for Solomon Islands.

“When we get a series of negative tests, we have a confidence that these people are in good health …if someone’s asymptomatic, or pre-symptomatic, that’ll be something that’s impossible for us to detect,” he said.

Mr Toua said the company is reviewing its operations to look at ways of catching COVID-19 infections among crew.

Kiribati recorded its first COVID-19 infection earlier this month, with crew onboard a ship that had sailed from PNG.

Fego Kiniafa, the managing director for PNG Ports said their COVID security bubble has been widened at ports facilities.

“The critical thing for us is if we do not allow cargo to flow then we will have a bigger problem than the COVID. And we do recognise that importance as an island country largely dependent on sea trade,” he said.