Authorities announced on Tuesday, November 24, that the national State of Public Emergency (SOPE) will be extended a further four months until March 24, 2021, as efforts continue to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Solomon Islands. The state of emergency initially declared in March, enables the triggering of the Emergency Powers Act which allows the government to allocate additional resources in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
International flights to and from the Solomon Islands remain very limited and non-citizens remain barred from entering the country unless granted special authorization from authorities. Solomon Airlines has extended the suspension of all scheduled international flights until January 10, 2021. Repatriation, cargo, and other exceptional flights have continued. Solomon Islands citizens and permanent residents are permitted entry. 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. Travelers will also be required to complete a Public Health Declaration, detailing their recent travel history and state of health. They will also be required to provide details of their accommodation, itinerary, and personal contact details for the first 14 days after their arrival. Domestic air travel has resumed.
Bars, restaurants, hotels, and shops remain largely open and operating as normal. Public gatherings remain banned, though some religious and sport-related gatherings may proceed subject to official approval from the Ministry of Health. Social distancing and additional hygiene measures should be observed in all establishments.
As of Wednesday, November 25, there have been 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Solomon Islands with no associated deaths. Further international spread of the virus is 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.