By Robert Iroga in Honiara
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare today has reassured the nation and parents of six students who have tested positive for covid-19 in the Philippines that the government is taking care of their welfare.
He said the government was working closely with authorities in Manila to take care of their welfare during this difficult time.
The six out of a total of 130 students who were tested for covid-19 on Friday were positive. They are currently being quarantined at their homes in the Philippines while authorities are conducting contact tracing.
These students have been informed of their test results by the Philippine Red Cross in accordance with Philippines law.
The Philippines has been classified as an extremely high-risk country for covid-19. This means, each student must have 3 consecutive negative covid-19 tests in the 14 days before their flight date before they can board their home-bound aircraft.
The Solomon Islands has a total of 373 students and 12 children below 2 years old living in the Philippines – a total of 385 people altogether.
The Philippines Red Cross had agreed to coordinate and do all the tests on the Solomon Islands students.
Following the release of results from the Philippines, the Oversight Committee convened an emergency meeting yesterday afternoon and late last night to discuss the implications and actions in response.
Last night, a subgroup of the Oversight Committee, comprising the Ministry of Health and Medical Service and the Ministry of Education and Human Resources, managed to establish contact with the six students.
This was an important undertaking before the committee can speak with their parents.
Based on Philippine law, all 130 students have been informed of their first test results. The Philippine law now requires that all students who test positive, and their contacts to be quarantined at home, unless they are sick from the virus, in which case they are admitted to hospitals.
The Philippines Department of Health will undertake contact tracing for the 6 students with positive tests and contacts.
Prime Minister Sogavare has confirmed that the 6 students are asymptomatic. They are not sick with the virus infection at this stage.
“We have spoken with some parents. We will continue our efforts to contact and speak with the other parents. Some students have already informed their parents,” Sogavare said.
“It is important for the parents to know that their son or daughter are currently not showing signs of being sick with the infection, and that they are being cared for.”
Working closely with Philippine Red Cross
The government, through the Ministry of Health and Medical Service, is working closely with the Philippine Red Cross to establish a formal arrangement that includes the care of the Solomon Islands students. The government will meet the costs in the first instance.
While the government is faced with this latest development, it also has a responsibility to protect the Solomon Islands and people from covid-19.
“This simply means only students that meet our ‘3-negative tests requirement’ will board our repatriation flights,” Sogavare said.
“While this does not give a 100 percent guarantee we will not import covid-19, it guarantees we minimise the risk of importation of covid-19 into the count.”
The government is confident that even those who have tested positive will recover to travel home on the 3rd flight scheduled for October 24.
“Fellow Solomon Islanders be assured that your government is committed to bringing all our students home safely. We are also committed to ensure we do not unduly import the virus into the country,” Sogavare said.
Robert Iroga is editor of Solomons Business Magazine Online. SBM Online articles are republished by the Pacific Media Centre with permission.