Solomons -PNG Border reported to be lacking quarantine facilities and Covid-19 testing machines
A somewhat concerning report by Radio New Zealand today claims that quarantine facilities on the Solomon Island and PNG border are lacking and the Shortland Islands and neighbouring Choiseul province have no Covid-19 testing machines and the nearest one is hundreds of kilometres away in Gizo the capital of the Western Province.
Solomon Islands authorities, on the porous western border with Papua New Guinea, say they will no longer be detaining border crossers because of a lack of quarantine facilities there.
The new policy was introduced after an attempt last week to quarantine two Bougainvillean fishermen caught in Solomon Islands waters was abandoned, with the men handed over to their own border authorities.
From now on all border crossers will be turned back immediately.
Papua New Guinea has almost 500 cases of Covid-19 while Solomon Islands has none.
The entire western border region has been a declared emergency zone, under Solomon Islands ongoing state of public emergency, since the start of the pandemic in March.
Last month, the neighbouring PNG region of Bougainville declared its first case of coronavirus
It will be recalled that authorities from the covid-19 Joint Operation at the Western border with Papua New Guinea released on Saturday (29 August) two Bougainvilleans arrested and detained at Kulitanai Police Post in the Shortland Islands after meeting all covid-19-free conditions.
A Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) patrol mission intercepted the two fishermen near Nunungari Island in the Solomon Islands waters on Wednesday 26 August at around 4:00pm and escorted to Kulitanai Forward base where onsite health officials immediately checked their conditions.
The duo were detained in a makeshift Quarantine facility for 3 days where they had been constantly monitored for symptoms of covid-19 since they have travelled from a high risk country.
Based on results from these clinical observations, onsite health authorities from the Solomon Islands Medical Assistance Team (SOLMAT) cleared and recommended their early release.
Their release was made on clearance by the SOLMAT Team Leader Dr. Channel Sabino that the two detainees have met the COVID-19 free conditions.
The Deputy Director of Immigration under section 28 (2) of the Immigration Act 2012 served notice for Eddie Sisi and John David Kuvuku to leave Solomon Islands after spending three days in detention under mandatory quarantine at Kulitanai Forward Command Base.
During the process, Police and Immigration officials maintained communication with their counterparts in Buin and Arawa regarding arrangements to return the two detainees safely including a handing over certificate.
Keeping the men at Kulitanai for a longer period would have incurred unnecessary cost to the taxpayers of Solomon Islands while at the same time sending them home would keep them out from further interaction with the local communities.
Sources Radio New Zealand and Solomon Times Online.