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Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sogavare has ordered relevant agencies to beef up surveillance at the western border.
This followed the increase of number of Covid 19 cases in Papua New Guinea and neighbouring Bougainville.
The Prime Minister said the latest WHO report indicates an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Bougainville to around 26 cases.
“This rapid increase reflects the COVID-19 situation in PNG which registered about 407 new cases in the month of February 2021 alone, representing about one-third the total cases of COVID-19 in PNG since the start of the pandemic,” he said.
Prime Minister Sogavare said from 26 to 28 February 2021, 88 new cases were reported in PNG, an average of 22 cases per day.
He said as of Monday this week, the reported cases of COVID-19 in Bougainville has reached 26.
“The increased number of cases in Bougainville means, the risk to our people along the western border in Choiseul, Western province and Malaita Outer Islands has increased substantially,” he said.
The Prime Minister said he has asked the oversight committee and all border agencies to beef up their surveillance activities at the border to ensure they do not allow any illegal crossing into the communities.
“The Shortland Islands as part of the Western Province, Malaita Outer Islands and the Northwest part of Choiseul have already been declared Emergency Zones. We will increase our focus and attention to identify gaps, and urgently mobilise additional personnel and logistics support to ensure we step up our surveillance activities immediately along the western border,” he said.
Prime Minister Sogavare said the Joint Command and Control Centre at Nila will also be strengthened to coordinate activities at the border.
The Prime Minister said our existing assets will also be strengthened, including the police posts at Kulitanai, Harapa, Kariki, Supizae, and Taro.
“Our health facilities are put into a state of readiness. I have also requested a more dedicated health team to be deployed to the border in a manner similar to the police deployment. This will ensure that we have health personnel on all outreach missions together with our police and immigration personnel,” he said.
The Prime Minister said there are 137 quarantine beds in the western province and eight quarantine beds at Supizae in Choiseul province.
Prime Minister Sogavare said the Government is also looking to support joint procurement of additional fast crafts, including two water ambulances and joint fuel depots, to support the rapidly growing operations along the western border.
“We are progressing well with the construction of a large Barrack unit and Mess for police officers at Kulitanai to support longer-term deployment of police officers to the border zone,” he said.
The Prime Minister said the increased risk of COVID-19 entering through our western border now highlights the importance of considering our citizens living along the western border in the ‘COVID-19 vaccination roll-out plan’.
“My government will continue to invest resources to enhance the security of our country and our people from COVID-19. Protecting our country and our people from COVID-19 is one of the two key objectives of my government. In this regard, strengthening the capabilities along the western border is the immediate priority of my government,” he said.
Prime Minister Sogavare said the National Government will continue to work closely with the Choiseul, Western, and Malaita Provincial governments to ensure they all step-up their collective efforts to jointly protect the western border from Covid 19.
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo also said that while the country is under State of Public Emergency (SOPE) Solomon Islands Police officers must use common sense when patrolling the common border at Western Solomons.
“These are matters our Police Commissioner should brief our officers manning the common border, common sense must prevail rather than using COVID-19 and SOPE.
“This western border is and will continue to be like that since both sides of the border are blood-related with traditional ties therefore we must be sincere when handling this sort of issue,” Lilo told Solomon Star.
Lilo said we must also understand that there was an agreement between the Government of Solomon Islands and the Government of Papua New Guinea on Border Arrangements.
SOURCE: SOLOMON TIMES ONLINE/SOLOMON STAR/PACNEWS
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