THE threat of the delta variant has forced the Government to impose new travel restrictions, Health Minister Dr Culwick Togamana has revealed.
Health Minister Togamana in his nationwide address on Monday this week said the Government has imposed new travel restrictions for incoming passengers by both sea and air.
“We are not allowing any incoming passenger services whether by air or by sea from countries reporting community transmission of the delta variant,” he said.
Dr Togamana said these restrictions will be reviewed and updated regularly.
As of now, the Health Minister said all incoming flights will only be strictly for cargo and no passengers will be allowed to enter the country until further advice.
“We will only lift the travel restrictions when our experts tell us it is safe to bring people into the country again. During this period, we will review and upgrade our SOPs and prepare our quarantine stations to be able to cope with this new variant should it enter the country,” he said.
Nevertheless, Dr Togamana said with efforts to keep the economy afloat at this difficult time, we cannot simply isolate ourselves from the rest of the world.
He said our engagements in international trade need to continue thus, the ongoing entry of cargo flights and foreign commercial vessels to our ports.
“These however continue to pose serious risk and concern of COVID-19 entry and community transmission,” he said.
Health Minister Togamana said that while we are controlling possible transmission by air, authorities are now focused on ensuring our protocols dealing with vessels are sharpened, so we do not allow COVDI-19 infections to enter the country through our ports.
“As a result of the increasing incidence of finding COVID-19 positive crew members on foreign vessels, the Oversight Committee’s Vessel exemption committee will be tightening up requirements for foreign vessels to adhere to when travelling to Solomon Islands,” he said.
Mr Togamana however, has acknowledged that in the past 18 months, because of the efforts of the Vessels Exemption Committee and the protocols applied, we have continued to protect the country from community transmission.