Health Ministry and WHO Steps Up Coronavirus Plans

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The Minister of Health, Hon. Dickson Mua, WHO Solomon Islands and MHMS officials met at the National Medical Stores for the handover of essential medical supplies.

WITH the number of cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) increasing across the globe, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) is stepping up its preparations, with the support of the World Health Organization.

Solomon Islands is a Member State of the World Health Organization (WHO) and is one of many countries WHO is supporting to prepare for COVID-19 across the Pacific. The Minister of Health, the Hon. Dickson Mua, and a team from MHMS met with WHO officials yesterday (3/3/20) to receive essential supplies of personal protective equipment for health workers in the form of masks, gloves, and gowns.

With such materials in short supply around the world, the Minister expressed his appreciation to WHO for moving quickly to ensure the country received these and other medical supplies and equipment. The Minister also highlighted the need to ensure there were medicines for managing the symptoms of COVID-19 and for people with underlying conditions who were more likely to experience severe illness.

WHO Country Representative Dr. Sevil Huseynova said WHO would continue to support MHMS with its COVID-19 preparations.  To date WHO has assisted MHMS with the overall planning and coordination of the health response, training health workers on clinical management, surveillance and case definition, and with information materials for the public about the virus and how to prevent its spread.

On Saturday the Minister also visited Honiara International Airport to see preparations in place to keep COVID-19 from entering the country.  The MHMS and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, Labour and Immigration have worked together to introduce travel restrictions on people traveling from restricted and affected countries. WHO has assisted MHMS to develop information materials for ports and airports, to train frontline staff on surveillance and screening and is supporting the establishment of quarantine and isolation facilities and procedures.

Globally, WHO is collaborating with scientists, clinicians, disease trackers, governments, supply chain experts and partners from the public and private sector to better understand the disease and coordinate the COVID-19 response.

To date, no cases of coronavirus have been reported in the Solomon Islands. However, WHO has said the risk of the virus continuing to spread around the world is “very high”. The likelihood of importation of a case of COVID-19 into the Solomon Islands cannot be ruled out. Preparation is key, Dr. Huseynova said.

“Every country must be ready for its first case, its first cluster, the first evidence of community transmission and for dealing with sustained community transmission – and it must be preparing for all those scenarios at the same time.

“We commend the Solomon Islands Government for the preparations it is making to respond to the threat of COVID-19 and we are committed to continuing our support in the time ahead.”