PM WARNS SEX WORKERS TO STAY OUT OF FOREIGN BOATS

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Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has strongly called on individuals including sex-workers who sometimes go to foreign vessels under the cover of darkness, to stop such activities because they risk contracting COVID-19 and risk bringing COVID-19 into the country.

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In his nationwide address today, Sogavare used the opportunity to focus on the dangers of COVID-19 coming into the country via the foreign vessels in particular from those illegally going into the vessels.

These challenges again highlight the fact that all eligible adults in all settlements in and around Honiara must get vaccinated because it is the only way you will be able to protect yourselves and your families in the event, we have community transmission in the country.

He said: “In my previous addresses I informed you about COVID-19 positive cases in one of the foreign logging vessels that entered our waters. This vessel remained in our port in the hope that the COVID-19 cases would resolve themselves and it can continue with its operation.  Unfortunately based on our weekly testing we confirmed there was ongoing transmission within the ship’s crew, and I am pleased to inform you that this vessel has now left the country to return to its home port to wait for its crews to recover before it can resume its trip to Solomon Islands.”

He said while this vessel was in port, “we had another foreign logging vessel with one of its crew members testing positive for COVID-19 on arrival. This vessel decided to return to its home port immediately to wait for its crew to recover.”

Sogavare underscored that the Oversight Committee’s Vessel Exemption Committee continues to pay special attention to the testing of all crews from all logging vessels when they come into the country.

He stressed that whenever a case of COVID-19 is discovered on a vessel, that vessel is immediately put under quarantine by the Comptroller of Customs and no one is allowed to go on board the vessel and no one from the vessel is allowed to disembark.

“Only authorized health officials are allowed to board the vessel for the expressed purpose of swabbing all the crews of the vessel to monitor the progress of infection among those infected, and to check the status of the other crew members of the vessel.If these protocols are followed we can guarantee there is no risk of transmitting COVID-19 to the country from these vessels,” he said.

However, Sogavare revealed that the Oversight Committee has brought to his attention that there are illegal activities occurring in some foreign vessels while they are at anchor in our ports.

“These activities involve sex workers accessing some of these vessels illegally. If any of these sex workers boarded a vessel that has crews infected with COVID-19, they could contract COVID-19, and they will be the people responsible for spreading COVID-19 in Honiara in the first instance and throughout our communities.

“I raise this point today because I must make it clear that even during normal times, no one is allowed to board any foreign vessel anchored in our ports. Now, with the risk and threat of COVID-19, it is a serious offence for anyone to board any vessel without approval.

“So today, I ask all individuals including sex-workers who sometimes go to foreign vessels under the cover of darkness, to please stop such activities because you risk contracting COVID-19 and risk bringing COVID-19 into the country,” the Prime Minister, said.

He continued: “I also ask members of the public to be vigilant and report any suspicious activities around foreign vessels in our ports and to immediately report these observations to the Police at the time you see them so that they can be investigated in real time.

I have instructed the OSC to step up surveillance and to ensure we do more awareness about the risks of these illegal activities that threaten the security of our country.”

Sogavare also revealed that: “I am putting all ships’ masters and crews, shipping agents, ship owners and operators of all foreign vessels on notice that if any person boards any of the foreign vessels in our ports illegally, be they cargo vessels, tankers, logging vessels, fishing vessels, landing crafts, tug boats or barges, the ship’s master and crews, their agents, the ship owners or operators will face punitive consequences.”

He added: “If it is discovered that COVID-19 had spread to the country because of an illegal activity such as entertaining sex-worker activity on any foreign vessel while it is at port, the master and crew of the vessel will be prosecuted, and the vessel may be seized and forfeited by the State.”

He admitted that while the border forces will continue to do their surveillance at the ports, they do not have the resources to do 24-hour surveillance.

“So, the government will hold the vessel’s master, and crew responsible for any breaches that allow any person especially sex-workers to board any vessel in our ports. For our citizens who may think of accessing foreign vessels anchored in our ports illegally for personal gain, and those that facilitate such activities, I ask you now to stop such activities. Boarding foreign vessels without approval is illegal. Such action exposes our country to the threat of COVID-19.

“If any sex worker contracts the virus from any of these vessels, the first people that will suffer are those from the sex-workers household and others that may have been in contact with the infected person. Any citizen that illegally boards a foreign vessel when it is at our ports, and any person that assists in such action commits a serious offence and they will be punished under our laws,” the PM said.

For four months now Solomon Islands remains COVID-19 free.

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