With the conditional resumption of inter- island travels, the risk of further spread of COVID-19 amongst the population also increases.
Currently the conditions and measures to mitigate this further spread involves COVID-19 testing at Point Cruz wharf in Honiara and provincial capitals. Other smaller sea ports are also conducting COVID-19 tests for intending travellers.
However, gathering of passengers inside of ships can potentially lead to further spread of the virus as such the National Health Emergency Operation Centre (NHEOC) has partnered with domestic fleet of sea vessels, their captains and crews to support decontamination of the vessels.
George Titiulu, Deputy Director of Environmental Health Division, Ministry of Health and Medical Services, responsible for decontamination activities explains, ‘with the current limited man power both in Honiara and the provinces to carry out decontamination, we have opted to partner with the ship captains and crews to support with decontamination’,
‘The training have just started with the first 4 ships issued with decontamination certificate, following training of four crew members for each of the vessels including their warehouse personnel’s. Basically, should any passenger tested positive for COVID-19 the vessel will be decontaminated thereby mitigating further spread of the virus as it can also pass through droplets from sneezing or coughing on surfaces,’ said Mr. Titutlu.
He added that getting the ships to do the decontamination themselves is also necessary to reduce waiting time for clearance for their next voyage. Previously ships had to wait in line for hours for their turn to be decontaminated by our workers and this often disrupts their schedules and consequently travel plans of passengers as well.
The training is continuing for remaining vessels and basically involves explanation of the decontamination process and items to decontaminate, training on the use of personal protective equipment and infection prevention and control supplies, and so forth.
After each training the ship crews then carry out actual decontamination work that is assessed by the port health team and once all criteria met, decontamination certificate for the vessel is issued.
The Ministry of Health therefore applauds ship owners and operators, the captains and crew members for the positive response to partner with health in this regard, an encouraging demonstration of the true spirit of Umi tugeda against COVID-19.