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PNG doctor speaks out: My test result had no connection with outbreak in Honiara

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PNG doctor speaks out: My test result had no connection with outbreak in Honiara

By Robert Luke Iroga

The Papua New Guinean medical doctor accused by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare as the person who brought COVID-19 into the country has come out publicly for the first time dispelling the claim arguing that his test result had no connection with the outbreak in Honiara.

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This new twist of events was exclusively disclosed to this magazine today by Dr. Maine Asapo who’s at the centre of the accusation from the PM and his top advisors for illegally crossing into Solomon Islands and for bringing in COVID-19 whom he now referred to as the index case.

He is currently detained at the border for four weeks now.

What the Government say on origin of outbreak

On 19th January,Sogavare in his national address informed the nation of community transmission after one person who travelled from Pelau on the 9th of January and arrived in Honiara a day later was tested positive for COVID-19. This new case was one of the passengers that travelled from Ontong Java onboard the vessel MV Awka that arrived in Honiara on 10th January 2022 after departing from Luaniua, Ontong Java on 9th January 2022.

Sogavare signaled out the foreign doctor as the ‘index’ case.

Secretary to the Prime Minister, Dr. Jimmy Rodgers few days later told a radio talkback show, 23rd January, that the origin of the COVID-19 community transmission outbreak in Honiara was from Ontong Java and not from the foreign forces that were deployed to Honiara during the unrest in November last year.

Dr. Rodgers said: “This has to be clarified so that we shift our focus back to containing and controlling the virus.”

“I can guarantee 110 per cent that none of this outbreak came from any of the people that came in,” he said.

Dr. Asapo’s side of story

But speaking exclusively to SBMOnline today from OJ, Dr Asapo said it is very sad the Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister (Sogavare) and the Ministry of Health have falsely put the blame “on me for the index case of this covid-19 outbreak in Honiara.”

“We arrived in Ontong Java after the last ship had left Ontong Java for Honiara,” he told SBMOnline.

According to people in Ontong Java, one of whom this magazine spoke to today, it takes between three to four hours for ships to travel between the two islands, with Pelau being closest to the PNG border.

Dr Asapo reiterated: “We arrived on Pelau on the 9/01/22 between 3-4pm Solomon time. By then last ship has already left Pelau for Honiara.”

The ship, Awka, departed Luaniua on the morning of 9th to Honiara.

Dr Asapo further stated that: “We were tested on the 15/01/21 and all of us were tested negative on the Rapid Antigen Test (RAT). Only after specimens were sent to Honiara, I was verbally advised my swab result was positive. Therefore, my test result has no connection at all with the outbreak in Honiara.”

Writing from Pelau: Here’s a statement that Dr Asapo issued recently

We are currently held by police here on Ontong Java, Solomon Islands. This is the 4th week.

Before I proceed to write this article I will state some facts here.

1. We are the 3rd group to be held by police for crossing the Tasman – Ontong Java (PNG-Solomons) border since this pandemic was declared.

2. People from Tasman have been crossing the border to Ontong Java every week since December 2021, but have not been caught by police. The police on the ground are well aware of this.

3. The Tasman – Ontong Java border is a traditional border. We have relatives and families on both sides.

4. Shipping services to the Bougainville Atolls (Fead, Caterets, Mortlock, Tasman) is almost non existent.

I have travelled to Ontong Java to visit families and discuss with relevant authorities a way forward for us to allow people to cross the border.

According to the leaders of Ontong Java, the Solomon Islands govt as part of the Covid 19 border security preparation has promised the following.

1. Build quarantine and covid 19 testing facilities.

2. Health staff houses

3. Health workers, Immigration officers and police.

4. Communications, mobile tower

This is to allow for people to cross the border. 

To date, there is nothing on the ground, except police officers. The govt has clearly neglected the people of Ontong Java.

One of the biggest problem we face is food security, that is the main reason why Tasman people risk their lives to cross the border. They will continue to cross the border as we speak.

The second problem why we cross the border is for health reasons. Covid 19 is not the only illness/disease we are face with. 

The solution is for both the PNG-Solomons gov’t to build Covid 19 testing facilities on their respective borders to allow movement of people. The gov’t must also provide reliable shipping services.

Our people will not only suffer from the virus, but from hunger.

Unless the leaders of both gov’t can come, see and feel our problems, they will never understand life here at the borders.

It is very sad the Solomon Island Prime Minister and Ministry of Health have falsely put the blame on me for the index case of this covid 19 outbreak in Honiara.

We arrived on Ontong Java after the last ship has left Ontong Java for Honiara.

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