LEADER of Opposition Hon Matthew Wale has questioned the Incident Controller what epidemiological advice was rendered to the government, which is the basis for the timing of the partial lifting of lockdown for an indefinite period.
Hon Wale said he is aware that on Saturday 29th Jan 2022, the Prime Minister announced that Cabinet decided to implement a lockdown of the Honiara Emergency Zone to be supplemented with a curfew within.
In that announcement, the Prime Minister stated that from 9 am on 30th January 2022 new curfew hours will be implemented between 3pm each afternoon and lifted at 9am the next morning on a daily basis until it is revoked.
The Opposition Leader said he is also aware that on Sunday 30th Jan 2020 the Secretary to Prime Minister announced further amended curfew times from 5pm to 8am daily.
“We assume that the SPM’s announcement will be validated by the appropriate legal instruments. We have gone from the PM making these sorts of important announcements, to such being delegated to the Health Minister, and now the Secretary to the PM has made this announcement. Who will be next to make such significant announcements?” he said.
Hon. Wale reiterated his earlier call for the Prime Minister not to shirk his leadership responsibility in this crisis and quickly make sense of his government’s messy response, and daily update to the nation.
Hon Wale said the last minute and frantic changes of time is more evidence of the erratic decision-making by the Prime Minister and his government.
He said, the new change of curfew hours from 5pm to 8am daily is still not the most practical time slots.
The Opposition Leader said the government should further amend it to 7pm to 7am daily. He said this would allow adequate time for workers to get to their places of work and return home in time.
“I think 7pm to 7am daily is more practical for everyone especially the private sector, and pose no loss of health benefit. The 5pm to 8am curfew announced by the SPM today will mean that people will leave their homes at 8am and arrive at their offices around 9am. And at the end of each day people will have to leave their offices around 4pm to return home. This would give a total of 6 hours of work daily and will affect productivity. That is if the economy is the basis of this decision, as stated by the PM,” Hon Wale said.
Further, he said regulations requiring buses to only carry two passengers per seat have rendered the business unprofitable.
“Many bus operators will simply idle their vehicles rather than lose money. This will have an adverse impact on mobility of people to their work places in a timely manner,” he said.
Hon Wale said the Prime Minister must exercise foresight to ensure these kinds of decisions are made well in time and announced early giving adequate time for people to plan their affairs.
He said it is unfortunate that the lack of foresight in making these important decisions caused people to do panic shopping again on Sunday, sadly many without masks also, and almost all with no regard to social distancing.
Hon Wale said if as the Prime Minister stated there is enough food for everyone in Honiara emergency zone and no household will be left out, then the lockdown strategy should be better than what has been announced.
He urged the government to increase and strengthen food delivery to households to mitigate the need for people to move.
“Panic shopping at shops and markets are likely super-spreader events that should be avoided at all cost. Furthermore, although many people wore masks, there is no social distancing at all as they are in a rush to get food and head home in time for the curfew. Government must take mitigation strategies on this” he said.
“But the real question is whether these decisions are based on epidemiology.
As it is, it appears the decisions on lockdown and curfews are based on political and administrative considerations that may be counterproductive to the fight against covid. At this point in our covid response, even economic considerations must be kept subject to science-led epidemiology. I fear this may not be the case,” Hon Wale said.
The Opposition Leader said the fight will only be effective if it is informed and driven by sound epidemiology. He said it appears there is no clear political will to ensure this is the case.
He said political considerations and the administrative machinery must serve the epidemiology – not constrain or control it.