In a new twist, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has revealed that the COVID-19 outbreak started in Ontong Java and the community transmission in the capital were from passengers that brought it to Honiara from Ontong Java between 21 December and 10th January 2021.
In his nationwide address today, Sogavare admitted that the virus entered the community before the Papua New Guinea doctor he claimed arrived in Pelau on January 9th as the index case. The doctor, Maine Asapo, told this magazine that when he arrived in Pelau, Awka, had already left in the morning for Honiara in the morning whilst he arrived in the afternoon. A passenger on Awka was detected with the virus which led the PM linking that to the doctor as the index case.
Asapo said based on the timings his test result had no connection with outbreak in Honiara
Sogavare based on the information available at the time, the community outbreak in Honiara was also linked to the doctor that arrived in Pelau but since then, the Ministry of health has undertaken more in-depth analysis of the Covid-19 outbreak in Ontong Java and subsequently the origins of the Community transmission in Honiara with assistance from Solomon Islands Maritime Authority.
“The Ministry of Health now believes the COVID-19 outbreak in Luaniua had commenced in the first half of December 2022. This does now absolve the doctor in question.
The primary issue for the doctor is that he has committed a serious offence by illegally crossing the border from PNG, and he could have also transmitted COVID-19 infections to others in the Pelau community. He will therefore be investigated accordingly,” said the PM.
In relation to the origin of Community transmission in Honiara, Sogavare said the Solomon Islands Maritime Authority provide a record of five vessels that arrived in Honiara from Ontong Java between 16 December 2021 and 10 January 2022 as follows:
1. MV Liberty III, arrived in Honiara around 16th December 2021
2. MV Solomon Prestige 2, arrived in Honiara on 21 December 2021 15
3. MV Ocean Joy, arrived in Honiara on 29 December 2021
4. MV Carolina, arrived in Honiara on 30 December 2021 5. MV Awka, arrived in Honiara on 10 January 2022
Sogavare said the Ministry of Health has subsequently established that 23 of the 26 crew members of MV Solomon Prestige 2 and most of the crew of MV Awka tested positive for COVID-19.
“It is very likely some of the crews of MV Ocean Joy and MV Carolina would also be positive. Based on this new information the Ministry of Health now believes that the COVID-19 hotspots have already started in Honiara before the arrival of MV Awka on 10th January 2021,” Sogavare said.
The Ministry of health has also confirmed that despite the presence of small pockets of COVID-19 hotspots prior to January 10, 2022, the speed of community transmission in Honiara was linked directly to passengers that disembarked from MV Awka on 10th January 2022.
He said the Ministry of Health traced most of the early local out-breaks to the location of the passengers that disembarked from MV Awka.
Solomon Islands International Assistance Force were COVID-19 Free
Meanwhile Sogavare strongly refuted claims the outbreak was liked to the Solomon Islands International Assistance Force that intervened to quell the riots and lootings in late November.
“Let me now put to rest the misinformation on social media platforms attributing the current COVID-19 outbreak to members of the Solomon International Assistance Force.
Every member of the Assistance mission fulfilled or pre-departure requirements before they arrived. They were all fully vaccinated, and they all tested negative for COVID-19 prior to arrival. During the first 14 days of their deployment in the country, they were tested every 2nd day and they were all negative over the two weeks of testing after arrival.”
Sogavare added: “After the first two weeks they were tested every week and have maintained their negative status throughout, except for one member that was infected by community transmission while in Honiara. I ask people responsible for spreading misinformation to stop misinforming the public.”