FIRST COVID 19 COMMUNITY TRANSMISSIONS IN ONOTNG JAVA AND HONIARA: ARE THE OFFICIAL REPORTS AND THE TIMELINES CONSISTENT AND ACCURATE?
Fellow Solomon Islanders before I share some important information pertaining to the question above. First I would like to state clearly here that I am not downplaying the risk of COVID 19 in our beloved country Solomon Islands, nor do I intend to disseminate false information to the public. But as a concern Solomon Islander and an Ontong Javanese, I think it is very important for me to put the facts about the timelines straight. The public needs to know the truth about when the index case as claimed by the official narrative and the other 9 people arrived at Pelau from Tasman. I am hoping that the public would read this with open minds to see whether the official reports with its timelines are reliable and accurate. I am not making this up or trying to defend the 10 people arriving at Pelau on 9th January 2022 from Tasman and the people of Ontong Java. We already had enough of the backlashes, discrimination and the false news that stigmatized Ontong Java people. Please let’s put a stop to that, we all fail, from the top -down no excuse.
Now allow me to quickly touch on the tests and the positive results first, before I give you the facts regarding the timelines.
- The first test and the positive results – Using RAT test On 15th January 2022 according to Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MOHMS) Face book page report on Sunday 16 January at 8:38 AM Solomon Time. A total of 29 people were tested on Pelau Island in Ontong Java using the RAT test, 19 were close contacts and 10 were the border crossers. Out of the 29 swaps only 4 were positive (indicative), all positive cases came from the 19 close contacts while al the 10 people returned negative results.
- The second test and the positive results –using the GeneXpert Machine A helicopter was sent to Pelau on Monday 17 January 2022 to bring the 29 swaps from Pelau to be tested in a Molecular laboratory in Honiara. On Tuesday 18 January the Prime Minster announced that the country has recorded a total of 7 new positive cases. Six positive cases from Pelau Island and the seventh case is a foreign national at the border in Honiara. Noted that apart from identying the index case (an index case is the first patient in an outbreak first noticed by health authorities that makes them aware that an outbreak is imminent), the report did not specify how many were from Pelau community and how many were from the 10 people that crossed the border. The report didn’t identify which variant was detected at Pelau, it could be Delta or Omicron, we do not know, said the PM.
- First community positive case in Honiara On Wednesday 19th January 2022 the PM announced that Honiara has recorded the first case of COVID transmission in the community, a passenger from MV Akwa that arrived in Honiara from Ontong Java on the 10th January 2022.
Here, the breakdown of the 6 cases was clarified, 5 from Pelau community and the sixth a foreigner whom they believed was the index case, one from the 10 people that crossed the border. The official announcements on 18th and 19th January 2022 has indicated that the first community case in Honiara was linked to the index case and the other 5 positive cases on Pelau Island in Ontong Java.
- 4. TIME LINES: Does the first community case in Honiara linked to the index case as claimed by the official narrative? MV Awka departed from Pelau on the 9th January 2022 between 9-10 AM for Luaniua arriving at Luaniua between 12 noon and 2pm, and departed Luaniua for Honiara late in the afternoon on the same day, arriving in Honiara on 10th January 2022.
This is the interesting part of the Timeline. The boat that travelled with the 10 people from Tasman arrived at Pelau on the 9th January 2022 between 1:30pm and 3:30pm. Therefore we can clearly see here that by the time that the 10 people arrived at Pelau MV Awka was already at Luaniua. Interestingly, the first community positive case in Honiara is a person from Luaniua NOT Pelau.
Based on the timelines above, one can clearly rule out that the first community case in Honiara does not link to the index case, unless the MOHMS can magically prove otherwise in their contact tracing and genome sequencing.
If the first positive community case in Honiara is an isolated case (linked to the index case and the other 5 positive cases in Pelau). How and where did the first community case in Honiara contract COVID 19?
Here are some of the possibilities that could have happen in our country in the months leading up to the first 6 community transmissions at Pelau Island in Ontong Java as officially claimed.
- COVID19 could have been in the community long before the 9th January 2022 as a result of the unreported border crossing between Ontong Java and Tasman. (Noted that most border crossers before 9th January 2022 were people from Ontong Java resided on Tasman Islands). However, it is also important to note that prior to the ship that sailed from Buka to Tasman in December 2021 before Christmas. There was limited movement of people between Buka and Tasman due to lack of shipping services. To date there is no official report from the Autonomous Region of Bougainville about a COVID case on Tasman Island. If this is true then it could lead us to possibility number 2 below.
- COVID19 could have been in the communities of Luaniua and Pelau unrelated to the illegal border crossings. The virus could have been transmitted from Honiara to Ontong Java as a result of the arrival of the foreign forces in Honiara to curb the recent riot. This is highly probable because it was reported that quarantine protocols were compromised when they arrived, despite the fact that they came from COVID 19 high risks countries such as. Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. This is where I think we let our guard down.
If this is true, then it could mean that the community at Ontong Java transmitted COVID to the claimed index case not otherwise. Please note that the 9 people who were very close to the index case returned negative results on both tests, while 5 of the 19 close contacts who have had casual contacts with the index case return positive results. Noted that 18 of the close contacts only greeted the 10 people upon their arrival by shaking of hands, 4 of them return positive on both tests. The nineteenth close contact is one of the law enforcement officers stationed at Pelau that quarantined the 10 people upon their arrival. He was actually the fifth positive case from Pelau community based on the second test. Interestingly the results of the fifth case and the index case were inconsistence. Both returned negative results in the first tests and returned positive in the second tests.
3. Chinese influx in Ontong Java: The influx of Chinese nationals in Ontong after the beche der ban was lifted could be another possibility that may have brought the virus to Ontong Java. It has been reported from Ontong Java that a viral flu like illness has been around in the communities of Luaniua and Pelau, long before the border crossing on 9th January 2022. Most people recovered from it after 2-3 days.
4. Cover up: Possibility number 2 could be where the virus has infiltrated into the country but the authorities used the claimed index case as a cover up. It is very interesting to note here as well that it is almost a week now but the authorities are yet to announce publicly the the variant type. Unlike previous cases detected at the border in Honiara the variant type were announce at the same time or almost immediately after each case was publicly announced. Why it took so long for the authorities to publicly disclose the variant-type compare to the previous cases. Something is not right here especially when the virus is believed to be spreading throughout Honiara and beyond to some of the provinces. Please leave no stone unturned otherwise someone would assume it’s a hoax.
5. Authorities in Honiara unaware: It could be either possibility number 2 or 3 was how and when the virus has infiltrated into the country but the authorities were unaware of it.
6. The Alert event: May be what happened at the border between Ontong Java and Tasman on 9th January 2022 has alerted the authorities that COVID 19 was already in the country long before the 9th January 2022 without their knowledge. This is why the authorities must be honest and transparent with their reporting.
In the meantime the people of Ontong Java are still waiting for the vessel and a team of health officials promised by the Prime Minister last week to assess the situation on the ground. The first positive cases at Pelau Island have been quarantine on island without any health supervision.
People are starting to question why the government claimed that Ontong Java is the epicenter of the outbreak but yet fail to keep its promises after the Prime Minister announced on 18th January to send a ship to Ontong. This is either a total negligence by the government, or may be the true epicenter of the outbreak is Honiara not Ontong Java.
Finally, I wish to appeal to the authorities to come out clear on this. I am not discounting the fact that people are suffering from the virus in different parts of the country now. But I am humbly requesting the authorities to simply put things straight, to stop the discrimination, stigma and the pointing of fingers. Please do proper contact tracing and come out clean, then speed up the genome sequencing process to identify which variant type is in the country. I do not see any good reason why the authorities see it fit to withheld or delay the genome sequencing processes to identify the variant type when such information is vitally important for proper COVID response.