Cyclone Harold likely to hit Vanuatu as category 5
Quoting Radio New Zealand – 5 April 2020
“Vanuatu is bracing for a direct hit from the still intensifying Cyclone Harold, which is forecast to pass straight over the central islands, forcing the country to contend with dual emergencies.
“Harold, a category four storm, was sitting off the country's west and continuing to strengthen on Sunday afternoon.
“On its current track, Harold is forecast to pass directly over the islands of Malekula and Ambrym late on Monday as a powerful and destructive category five storm - the highest category there is - with winds near its centre in excess of 200km/h.
“On Sunday, reports from islands in Vanuatu's west - including Santo, the country's largest - indicated that damage had already been done, with people forced to flee villages or find higher ground.
“Vanuatu has been in a state of emergency for weeks, with the country in effective lockdown. The border has been closed, and people have been ordered to stay home with gatherings of more than five people banned.
“But that could prove difficult to maintain if the cyclone is as destructive as feared, with people likely to be forced to move from village-to-village, and others forced to congregate in mass evacuation centres that are already opening across the central provinces.”
Copyright @ 2020, Radio New Zealand.
Search continues for 27 missing from ferry in Solomon Islands
Quoting Radio New Zealand – 5 April 2020
“Two bodies have been recovered from the sea near Malaita in Solomon Islands as the search continues for 27 people who were swept overboard from an inter-island ferry.
“The MV Taimareho set sail from the capital, Honiara, bound for Malaita late on Thursday night, laden with more than 700 passengers and cargo.
“It set sail in strong winds that were buffeting Honiara Harbour, with Cyclone Harold - then a category two storm - just to the south.
“The Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, released a statement, saying he was saddened to hear of the "tragic incident.
“An investigation into the incident has begun.”
Copyright @2020, Radio New Zealand.
4 April 2020
Could lavender be grown commercially in the Solomon Islands and lavender oil become a valuable export commodity?
The Solomon Islands has been showing some potential with cultivating and marketing kava as a cash crop and a commercial pineapple enterprise is soon set to benefit the community in the Bina Harbour area.
I have previously offered suggestions about the possibility of commercially growing and marketing ginger, vanilla, taro, cassava, tomatoes, strawberries, bananas (sold as chips) and even fresh orchids, but never considered the possibilities that might exist from cultivating lavender for its oil content.
The lavender species prefers rather dry climates, little humidity and light well drained soil. Too much water and the plants would fail to grow successfully.
There are places, however, where commercial lavender production is big business, Texas in the United States, being just one such place – and Texas most certainly does not have the climate conditions lavender plants best like.
Perhaps, there might be some interest generated as an outcome of this letter either by the Solomon Islands government, or by individual land owners who might see the potential of growing lavender in view of the growing demand on international markets for its oil.
In the Global Essential Oil market lavender oil is in “lucrative demand” and reportedly returning good prices for producers.
If technical advice was needed onstarting and successfully managing lavender on a commercial basis I feel sure help would be forthcoming from Australia, or maybe from Israel that has had major success with crop cultivation in difficult conditions.
5 April 2020
Stimulus measures to boost the economy now but thoughts on future business operations and practices
In the Solomon Islands I believe the Prime Minister and the Cabinet will be working on a package of stimulus measures to try and mitigate the impact that the coronavirus threat has had on the national economy and the lives of Solomon Islanders, despite the fact, and thankfully, coronavirus has so far been kept at bay.
The measures the government will take will be announced soon, I suspect, but will probably be in line with the kind of stimulus actions taken in Samoa and Vanuatu in recent weeks.
The Chairman of the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) Mr. Jay Bartlett has predicted hard times ahead for business and my own feeling is there will be an economic contraction this year arising from coronavirus concerns and the preventative measures and restrictions already in place.
In the wider context of economic and social challenge facing the world, the impact on business, as we know it, will be profound. How will companies navigate through the still developing crises, ensuring business continuity, saving jobs and securing talent when the window of recovery opens again?
In the Solomon Islands, the Heritage Park Hotel has had to lay off some 80 to 100 local workers occasioned by cancelled reservations and the temporary end to visitor arrivals.
In Australia Qantas has laid off staff and grounded much of its air fleet. In the United Kingdom British Airways is deciding, today, whether to lay off more than 35,000 of its staff, having grounded 80 percent of its aircraft.
Solomon Airways has also seen its international services ended for now and staff put on leave.
In countries like, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and in China, important adjustments have had to be made to work arrangements for companies that remain open and home based working led to the use of flexible technology platforms enabling staff to work remotely and safely.
The COVID-19 crisis was impossible to predict with conventional wisdom and forecasting and, whatever the Solomon Islands government decides to include in its stimulus package, I believe it should help business tide over the short-term challenges, while companies should assess how they may best serve their individual circumstances.
I will end however, by posing the question whether the technology now brought into greater use today, becomes the norm business will be conducted in the future when the coronavirus pandemic is no longer a threat to the world and global business operations?
Fewer employees, fewer offices, cost savings on office and building maintenance, electricity water, telephones, travel expenses - and with faster communications and video conferencing, to name but a few of the cost reductions and advantages in business operations with the greater use of technology.
4 April 2020
Looking at betel nut chewing and malaria in the context of the COVID -19 threat.
While obeying the rules on staying at home this weekend, as seniors of my age are now advised we should to reduce the risks associated with catching the dreaded and much feared cornonavirus, I could have watched one of the many videos I seem to have bought and accrued over several years and usually only watched once.
Instead I thought I would share a few lines with you mentioning betel nuts and malaria – both subjects all in the Solomon Islands have good deal of knowledge and experience of, although in the case of malaria an illness which still poses a health threat to a good many.
Why should I have chosen betel nuts to write about? Well, I’ll explain.
In today’s edition of the Solomon Star, which I glanced at on line, I saw an article which said the country’s inflation rate has risen +5.1 percent to 112.4 in January this year with a rising demand for betel nut coupled with a general rise in prices of main goods and services.
What could have been the cause of the high demand for betel nut pushing up inflation? The reported change in the National Consumer Price Index (NCPI) was recorded as having occurred in January before the advent of coronavirus became evident globally and the concerns associated with the pandemic.
I know that betel nut chewing is an important cultural practice in the Solomon Islands, in Melanesia generally and in some regions in south and south-east. It has traditionally played an important role in social customs, religious practices and cultural rituals and in some individuals perhaps generates a feeling of relaxation and well-being.
I have no doubt that worrying over the threat now posed by the infectious, deadly and unseen virus we have come to know as COVID- 19 could well see betel nut sales increase.
Although not an expert in such matters, I do know that the habit of chewing betel nut in order to induce a feeling of well being and calmness carries some risk from malignancy in the mouth, the oral cavities and in the throat.
Some Taiwanese researchers have indicated that the risk of oral cancer incidence among individuals with concurrent habits of smoking, drinking, and betel nut chewing is 123 times higher than that among the general population.
My advice therefore is to be especially careful and to moderate the habit of chewing betel nut, if not altogether stopping the risky practice.
What about malaria then?
Well, knowing the treatment for malaria in the Solomon Islands has often involved the taking of the old malaria drug called hydroxychloroquine, I was interested to read in the internationally circulated publication the ‘Pharmacist’ that the same drug may have the potential to combat the novel coronavirus.
At the urging of the White House, several manufacturers revived production and will donate millions of pills. And now, the Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use by hospitals.
However, there’s an issue: No one knows if hydroxychloroquine is truly effective against Covid-19 because we don’t have results from full-blown clinical trials.
“A paper published earlier this month in Nature found that hydroxychloroquine limited the ability of Covid-19 to enter cells in laboratory tests, but this is not the same thing as testing in people. Although the researchers maintained the drug has a “good potential” to combat the disease, they acknowledged the “possibility awaits confirmation by clinical trials.”
While confirmation of the value of hydroxychloroquine is awaited, let me end by saying until there is an effective treatment for coronavirus do not abandon the physical distancing rules that are needed to control the spread of coronavirus, or increase the habit of chewing betel nut and end up with cancer of the mouth or throat.
Do take care.