Posted by : Posted on : 31-Mar-2020

Solomon Islands:  Responding positively to the Covid 19 threat.

As a small child in war-time Britain I survived the almost nightly bombing raids near my home and witnessed the evacuation of children then my age from the major cities to country areas where bombing was not so intense and thought safer.

Now having become a senior citizen I am again caught up in a situation where curtailment of movement, and the right of assembly is greatly restricted and facing an enemy, this time an invisible one, but one that is deadly and no respecter of borders, faith, gender, age, status or nationality, threatening all our lives on a massive and global scale.

I refer, of course, to the onset of coronavirus, now rated a pandemic.

A pandemic that has spread rapidly to many countries and resulted in a great many deaths and a meltdown in the expected economic growth prospects of the most affected countries, to say nothing of job losses and the shutdown of organisations and businesses that has already impacted on the lives and prospects of millions of people.

The mass exodus of hundreds of Solomon Islanders fleeing from Honiara to their home provinces to escape the possible intrusion of coronavirus reaching the national capital, a story I wrote about yesterday, took my mind back to the early war years.

The Solomon Islands despite being a dependent country and without the medical resources and health services infrastructure to effectively deal with the deadly invasive virus, has put in place early effective measures to keep the virus out so far.

The Solomon Islands government already has in place a ban of international flights; quarantine centres and is awaiting test kits from the Chinese government which are promised to arrive by courier services this week or next week.

The Chinese government will also be sending protective clothing for use by front line personnel already working with professionalism and dedication in dealing with the unseen virus.

Although international flights bringing passengers to the Solomon Islands have been banned it appears that some cargo flights are being allowed.

During the early war years I remember the people of Britain remained strong and united against the then common threat, the same must be the case in the Solomon Islands today.

I believe the Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, has said much the same when praising the work of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and the ‘front-line’ officers most vulnerable during their work.

I would add praise, as well, to the way the Solomon Islands media has reported on events at home during the ongoing crises and repeatedly stressed calls for the public not to panic and to heed the advice on the virus scare from the appropriate authority, namely the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.

In Papua New Guinea, the Prime Minister, James Marape, has revealed that his government is considering asking banks to defer loan repayments by three months to help local people and businesses.

The PNG Prime Minister also revealed plans by the government for an economic stimulus strategy due to the economic strain being faced by the country arising from Covid- 19.

Mr.Marape additionally mentioned his government was also working to utilise its business stimulus fund under the 2020 budget.

At home, in the Solomon Islands, the government is also considering putting together a stimulus package to relieve any serious impacts on the national economy arising from the Covid 19 pandemic.

The Prime Minister has said it is important that the country’s continues to function with minimal disruption.

In aligned but separate news, the local BRED Bank has said it will be assisting its customers with financial relief packages and all personal loan repayments will be deferred for six months (principal and interest) starting on 1st April 2020.

In one of the more recent moves, the government has ordered the closure of all schools as a precaution against coronavirus.

All students have been told to return to their villages or home and to remain with their parents or guardians until further notice is received from the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development.

Meanwhile the government has made a decision that Solomon Islanders studying in Fiji, PNG and the Philippines should remain in their respective host countries.

The Secretary to the Prime Minister, Dr. J Rodgers said the biggest challenge faced by the government was the lack of quarantine spaces.

It is understood there are more than 2000 Solomon Islands students studying at various institutions in the region.

The Prime Minister, however, has assured students overseas that the Government will provide financial assistance to ensure their safety and comfort in their host countries amidst the current covid-19 global pandemic.

By way of a footnote to this piece, Ben Hocking writing in Your Life Choices an on- line publication said today that new COVID-19 testing kits that will deliver results in three to 15 minutes will be available in Australia by early April.

Mr. Hocking wrote - quote:

“The rapid diagnostic tests (RDT), which can be done with a small finger prick, require no laboratory equipment and do not require the use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) equipment, one of the limiting factors in wide scale testing.

“The COVID-19 rapid test is a small disposable kit that uses a lateral flow colloidal gold-based detection method against viral specific IgG/IgM, delivering results in as little as three minutes without requiring any laboratory equipment. 

“Most other available COVID-19 tests make use of PCR technology to detect viral RNA, which requires skilled technicians, takes several hours to produce a result and is limited in throughput by the availability of specific laboratory equipment. 

“The new test’s easy usability makes it an attractive option for regional testing or for mobile/rapid screening centres.

“It consists of a small device that requires only 10 microlitres of patient serum or plasma, or 20 microlitres of whole blood, to be loaded into a receptacle, alongside an included buffer, which then migrate along the device to an area of immobilised viral S protein fragments.

“If virus specific IgG or IgM is present, conjugates are formed, which show up as a distinctive red band on the device. 

“Results are typically seen within three to 15 minutes, depending on the quantity of IgG/IgM in the blood.”

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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