By Gorethy Kenneth in Port Moresby
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has appealed to his fellow Solomon Islanders at the western border not to allow Bougainvilleans into the country.
In his nation’s address last Friday, Sogavare recapped the country’s first covid-19 case recorded from a Shortland islander, dropped off by four Bougainvilleans in Shortland, who was automatically tested positive and is still in a 14-day quarantine with his seven family members who also tested positive.
The four Bougainvilleans returned home the same day and are back in their respective villages.
Sogavare singled out the New Year delta and omicron cases recorded in Solomon Islands which were brought in by citizens returning from outside Honiara.
“The western border continues to be an area of priority for health,” he said.
“For the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force and other border force agencies, it represents a potential source of covid-19 incursion into the country.
“For example, on New Year’s Day, a man from the Shortlands travelled with four Bougainville nationals from Bougainville to Shortland.
“The four Bougainvilleans returned straight after dropping off the man.
In quarantine facility at Nila
“The man is now held at the quarantine facility in Nila along with seven of his family members with whom he had made close contact.
“They will undergo 14 days of quarantine and only released if all tests results are returned negative.
“Five who had been held at the Nila isolation ward at Shortlands will be released after serving 14 days if their results return negative.
“These five individuals have made close contact with people from Bougainville.
“My good people, living along the western border, I ask you to refrain from going across the border to Bougainville.
“I also ask you to not allow any visitors from Bougainville to your villages during the period of the State of Emergency. Please continue to be vigilant to prevent the entry of covid-19 through our western border.”
ABG health chief ‘not aware’
Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) Health Secretary Dr Clement Totavun told the Post-Courier they were not aware of the incident singled out by Sogavare but also said the border had been closed since 2020 when the covid initial measures were released and PNG Immigration and other border offices had ordered immediate closure.
“There is currently a ban on traditional border crossing,” he said.
“The border is closed.
“The Border Protection Authority is supposed to man the border but surveillance at the moment is not effective.”
He said he would communicate with National Pandemic Controller David Manning on this issue.
Gorethy Kenneth is a senior PNG Post-Courier journalist. Republished with permission.