PRIME Minister Manasseh Sogavare has announced a new COVID-19 case in the country.
The Prime Minister in his special nationwide address today said the case was detected amongst a crewmember of the Cargo Vessel MV Chefoo.
Prime Minister Sogavare said the case was detected following a comprehensive risk assessment undertaken by the ‘Vessels’ Exemption Committee’ over the weekend.
“This individual was one of five new crew members that joined the vessel at Lae Port in PNG on 15th April 2021. It is notable that all 5 new crew members that joined the vessel at Lae, tested negative for COVID-19 at Lae on 12th April 2021, 3 days before boarding the vessel,” he said.
Prime Minister Sogavare said the vessel left Lae for Honiara at 8pm on 15th April and arrived in Honiara at 7pm on 17th April – 1 hour short of two days sailing time.
Prime Minister Sogavare said the Oversight Committee on the advice of the Vessel Exemption Committee has set five days as the ‘minimum quarantine at sea period’ for any vessel that travels from any PNG port to any Solomon Islands port.
He said this is to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission through vessels.
The Prime Minister said the Exemption Committee can grant exemptions to the vessels if the assessment shows low or negligible levels of risk for COVID-19 transmission.
“If the COVID-19 risk assessment is high, the vessel does not get any exemption and must serve the full 5 days quarantine at sea before it can be cleared to discharge its cargo,” he said.
Prime Minister Sogavare said because of the high level of community transmission of COVID-19 in PNG, including in Lae, the Exemption Committee advised the Agent of the Vessel that all the five new crewmembers that joined the vessel in Lae, had to be re-tested to ensure they are still negative before the vessel can be cleared.
“Let me express my sincere gratitude to the Agent and the Principal of MV Chefoo for agreeing to have the 5 crew members tested, and for facilitating the boarding of the swabbing team to the vessel on Sunday 18th April to do the swabbing,” he said.
Prime Minister Sogavare said it was fortuitous that the Exemption Committee insisted on doing the repeat swabs on the five-crew members.
“This could have turned into a more serious situation for the vessel, the ship owner and operator and the shipping agent if there was to be a COVID-19 outbreak amongst the crew on the vessel,” he said.
The Prime Minister said given that many people affected by COVID-19 in PNG are asymptomatic, there would have been no way of knowing until someone actually gets sick due to the virus.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sogavare has explained that while this new case was diagnosed in our Molecular laboratory, it will not be registered as a Solomon Islands case.
He said this case will come under ‘Conveyance’ and registered under the name of the Vessel.