Posted by : Posted on : 20-Mar-2020

Tougher measures in the Solomon Islands against the spread of coronavirus are also evident across the Pacific region

 Schools in Honiara and Guadalcanal will take an early holiday starting today as the government announced new measures against the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19).

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare announced the raft of measures in a national address to the nation last night in the wake of the imminent threat the virus poses to the nation.

The announcement comes as a second suspected case sent to Australia for tests returned negative.

 PM Sogavare said under the new measures, all students will vacate the boarding schools during the break.

But schools in the rest of the country will remain open until the scheduled first-term school break,” the prime minister said.

All schools will reopen in accordance with the school calendar in April unless the situation changes when further decisions will be made,” he added.

Decisions on the tertiary institutions will be made by their respective authorities, noting the decision taken by the government in Honiara and Guadalcanal Province schools.”

PM Sogavare also encouraged those not working and living in Honiara to return or relocate to the provinces immediately.

Source:  Solomon Star News.

Meanwhile, Radio New Zealand has reported countries around the Pacific are also deepening their restrictions to try and contain the spread of coronovirus.

Radio New Zealand has compiled a country-by-country guide to what measures each country and territory has introduced.

Here is a glimpse of some of the measures, and I quote.

Samoa, only just coming through the other side of a measles epidemic that killed 83 people, is now awaiting test results for its first suspected case of Covid-19.

One person from Auckland is being held in an Apia hospital. A government statement on Wednesday said test results would take "10-20 working days", but that was amended on Thursday, with test results now expected to take three to five.

.Samoa already has some of the strictest measures: all arrivals need a medical certificate, and people need to self-isolate before travelling. But essentially, the Samoan government is asking people not to travel there at all - including Samoans abroad returning for reunions, weddings, funerals etc.

Anyone who wants to go to the Cook Islands will have to spend 14 days self-quarantined in New Zealand beforehand. All flights from French Polynesia, Australia and the US have been suspended, and the number of flights from Auckland have been whittled down.

If you do get there, you won't be allowed further than Rarotonga for a while. The Cook Islands health secretary, Josephine Aumea Herman, said that from Saturday, all travellers to the Pa Enua - the outer islands - must first be quarantined in Rarotonga.

"The whole purpose around this is to provide the Pa Enua a safeguard so that we can pretty much avoid the virus going to the Pa Enua," she said.

Ms Aumea Herman said health officials visited the outer islands last week to ensure their preparedness.

Nauru has declared a State of Disaster as it prepares for Covid-19.

President Lionel Aingimea said in an address that there are no cases in Nauru but he says the coronavirus could be devastating if it arrives.

Stringent quarantine and border protection measures are in place, requiring all travellers to spend 14 days in approved transition accommodation, before being allowed into the community.

Flights to and from Nauru have been reduced to one return service to Brisbane once a fortnight.

Mr Aingimea said Nauruans should practice social distancing, avoiding un-necessary human contact and mass gatherings.

In Tonga, tougher measures were introduced on Tuesday night, with people from countries with community transmission of Covid-19 now required to spend 14-days self-isolated in a country with fewer than 60 cases - a measure that affects Australia.

However the restriction does not apply to Tongan citizens, permanent residents or their immediate family members.

Meanwhile, a quarantine site has been set up at the Taliai Army Camp in Fua'amotu, with three people already being held there.

Anyone hoping to go to Tuvalu must spend 14-days of isolation in Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu or Solomon Islands before embarking for the country.

The PNG Prime Minister, James Marape. has been facing mounting criticism this week over its fragmented response to the pandemic, after mixed communication about a possible case that eventually came back negative.

Still, from Sunday, all incoming international flights will be banned, and a government Covid-19 taskforce has been formed.

The lengthy, porous land border with Indonesia has been sealed for two months now, but MPs in the Sepik region have said they'll fund bolstered surveillance, as the number of cases in Indonesia continues to surge.

Vanuatu pushed ahead with its general election on Thursday, despite some concerns about mass gatherings.

In a national address on Tuesday the caretaker Prime Minister Charlot Salwai announced the extension of the ban on cruise ship visits to 60 days, the suspension of the labour mobility scheme to Australia and New Zealand and a reduction in international flights into the country.

Anyone who's been in one of 33 countries - including Australia - in the past 14 days will be denied entry.

The strictest measure is in the Marshall Islands, which has banned all inbound travel altogether until mid-April at the least.

In a country scattered over remote atolls, with a health-system that's been devastated by an ongoing dengue fever epidemic that's stressed eight months, the government is making no apologies for its measures.

"Quite frankly, I don't care what the rest of the world thinks about our really strict travel advisory," the health secretary, Jack Niedenthal, told RNZ last week. He said it allowed the Marshall Islands "breathing space" to build quarantine units and prepare Covid-19 response plans.

"We have to protect our people," he said.

Murmurings had been circulating all day on Thursday, panic buying started at supermarkets, and a prominent rugby tournament was cancelled in anticipation. Then, after numerous delays, Fiji’s Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama ,fronted the nation and confirmed it; Fiji had its first case of Covid-19.

Mr Bainimarama said the person had recently returned to Lautoka from abroad, and is in isolation in hospital.

From midnight last night, all schools and non-essential businesses in the greater Lautoka area have been ordered closed, and the government has asked all who live in the area to stay in the area.

Gatherings of more than 20 people - including meetings and religious services - are now banned, and all nightclubs, gyms, cinemas, swimming pools and fitness centres have also been ordered closed.

Mr Bainimarama also tightened Fiji's border restrictions, extending a travel ban to people from the United States and Europe, including the UK.

Source and quoting Radio New Zealand.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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