On Saturday, October 3, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare announced the country's first confirmed case of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The case involved a student who had been repatriated from the Philippines last week. The individual was asymptomatic and provided three negative tests prior to his departure. They have been placed in isolation, along with two close contacts, and front-line staff who dealt with the individual are being tested.
Honiara International Airport (HIR) has been closed to scheduled international flights since March in what has been up till now a successful bid to seal off the country to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak. Repatriation, cargo, and other exceptional flights have continued. Those arriving are required to quarantine for 14 days and are subject to a set number of tests during this period, dependent on the infection rate in the country of departure.
A state of public emergency has been extended until November 25 due to the pandemic. However, whilst social distancing and other methods to limit the possibility of transmission are encouraged in the Solomon Islands, they are generally not enforced. Virtually all businesses are operating as normal, including hotels, bars, restaurants, and shops.
Further international spread of the virus is to be expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Since then, human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay. To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.