On Tuesday December 13th, the Solomon Islands Ministry of Health and Medical Services participated in International Health Regulations (IHR) Exercise Crystal. The exercise is an annual simulation exercise for the National IHR Focal Points of World Health Organization Western Pacific Region (WPR) Member States, and WHO staff to test IHR communication, information sharing, decision-making and reporting. During the exercise, which was carried out remotely by virtual connection, all National IHR Focal Points (Member States) and IHR Contact Points (areas and territories) in the Western Pacific Region were invited to join according to their time zone and availability. The exercise has been held annually since 2008, and the event held in 2022 mark the 14th exercise in the series.
Dr Nemia Bainivalu, Deputy Secretary for Public Health represented the MHMS in the Solomon Islands as the National IHR Focal Point to test IHR public health event communications and collaboration in the context of a hypothetical outbreak of a novel disease in the Country.
“The exercise highlighted various challenges with outbreaks of novel diseases that we may not have thought of previously. For example, in the event of an outbreak of a novel disease within the country, we will need to consider how to manage movements across our domestic and international borders. The exercise was useful for us as a team to reflect on learnings from COVID-19 and how these could help us respond to future health emergencies. Our participation in today’s event, allowed us to practice and test our ability to assess public health events using the decision instrument contained in Annex 2 of the IHR (2005); including posting to the IHR Event Information Site (EIS).”
Moving forward, the MHMS will be reviewing the COVID-19 standard operating procedures to ensure they can be adapted for future outbreaks of pandemic prone respiratory illnesses.
Dr Nemia was supported by staff from various departments in the MHMS during the exercise and two WHO Epidemiologists.