The National Emergency Response Team (NERT) of the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) under the National Disaster Management Office in Honiara has ended its seven days technical mission on Gizo, and the Western Border.
Speaking on behalf of the team, the NDMO Chief of Operations Mr. George Baragamu stated that On Gizo the team conduct installation of the high tech CODAN radio system with the engineer of the local CODAN service provider, whilst conduct service tests on the field kits being deployed to Gizo since the start of the pandemic.
On Border the team the team sorted out several administrative matters regarding the SIG Joint Border Command Centre, and held operational meeting with Border Agencies on two the country’s plans on the Border, 1) the Western Border Operations Plan 2021, which is specific to provide front line operators the guidelines on responding to certain scenarios on the Border. The plan is the Western Border Repatriation- Reception and Departure Centre Plan 2021 that focus on managing repatriation on the Border.
Mr. Baragamu added that the third important aspect of the mission is to conduct operational and status check on all the NDC and NERT assets deployed to the SIG Joint Command Centre (OSOCC) at the Border since October 2020.
During the engagement, the team also supported the Western Province Camp Management Sector Committee (WP-CMSC) of the Provincial Disaster Operations Committee (P-DOC). The national team has confirmed that so far three Quarantine Stations are now operationally ready to accommodate anyone who enters the country through the Western border.
Work on establishing a fourth Quarantine Station is also well underway at Nila Catholic Mission Station in the Shortland Islands based on the recommendation of Provincial Health Sector Committee. Both teams held consultation with the Nila Catholic Parish to establish the facility. Given the proximity of Shortland Islands to the neighboring Papua New Guinea Province of Bougainville combined with the community transmission of COVID-19 on the other side of the border, has given urgency for the need to establish a quarantine Station in the Shortlands. PNG which is relatively close to Western Province is currently considered a high risk country.
A statement by the Western Provincial Disaster Officer Mr. Danny Ruel says as it is now, there is no Quarantine Station operating in the Shortlands as previously announced due to a number of issues encountered.
“My trip here with the NERT here has turned out successful as the Nila Catholic Parish responded positively to our request and agreed to offer their newly built facility in the Shortlands to be used by the government for quarantine and I sincerely thank the Catholic church as well as communities for their great continuous support toward the SIG COVID-19 response in the Western Border” said Mr Ruel
He added, “Because of the absence of an approved Quarantine Station a PNG national now being held for breach of the State of Public Emergency current for Western and Choiseul Provinces is serving his 21 days mandated Quarantine period in an Isolation Center at Nila Mini Hospital which should be used for COVID-19 patients. Although it is a medical facility the quarantine services are provided by the Provincial Camp Management Team through the support of the National Disaster Council (NDC) to assist the Provincial Health Sector Committee. It is important that all our designated quarantine facility are fully resourced to also prepare for any possible government repatriation plan for our citizens who are currently stranded on Bougainville due to the border closure, or even COVID-19 refugees possibly from the other side of the border.
This is a very difficult time and COVID-19 have claimed millions of lives throughout the globe. Solomon Islands is very small in terms of population and economy but if we all cooperate and support the government’s effort through this COVID-19 operation we can still better protect this country from this deadly virus.’
Western Province currently operates three quarantines Stations at Gizo, Nusatupe Airport and Noro town. The location of the QS’s is determined by their relative ease of access to major Hospital facilities which is a key requirement by law for the establishment of such facilities.
To date Western Province has recorded a total of twenty eight persons who have gone through quarantine. All but one have since graduated and released to reintegrate into society.
Meanwhile, the team also had the opportunity to make a presentation to the Health and Medical Services Committee of the National Parliament who were on site to conduct inquiry into the standards of quarantine facilities for COVID-19.
Delivering the presentation, NDMO Chief of Operations Mr. George Baragamu outlined why the NDMO is playing a major role under the current COVID-19 Operational arrangement. He said since there is no mechanism in place for the country to use in a situation like the one posed by COVID-19, the National Disaster Council arrangement setout under the National Disaster Plan of 2018 is the best and appropriate arrangement for the county’s operational coordination against COVID-19. So far under the current arrangement the country has been very successful in containing all imported cases of COVID-19 within the bounds of the Quarantine Stations.
Solomon Islands is still yet to record any form of community transmission.