Stranded Solomon Islanders test negative for COVID

Five people from the Solomon Islands who drifted at sea for a month before landing on Vanuatu’s Maewo Island, have tested negative for COVID-19.

Vice Chairman of the COVID-19 Seaport Task Force, Obed Manwo, says the Vila Central Hospital tested the islanders and the results were negative.

“The test results have enabled us to advise the National Disaster Management Office Director, Abraham Nasak, to clear the five islanders as they have tested negative,” he said.

“The people on Maewo Island who were scared after the five Solomon Islanders came ashore on their island, have been informed of the islander’s clear health status.

“Also, people should not be scared about infection from this group, because these islanders spent a month at sea and that is more than 14-days of quarantine.”

One of the five Solomon Islanders, Father Joseph Gavea, says the group had had “a miraculous ocean journey”.

“Because of the blessing from God we drifted safely to Maewo Island,” Father Gavea said.

Budley Sinalau, the Program Manager for the Australian High Commission in Vanuatu, says it was a sad time when he went to visit his wantoks at the Vila Central Hospital.

He says the Solomon Islanders were “extremely happy” to meet him.

“I went and talked to them to make sure they were not worrying too much,” Mr Sinalau said.

“It has been a challenging time for them because they hadn’t eaten any food for a long time while at sea – but prayer kept them alive.”

The Spokesperson for COVID-19, Russel Tamata, says the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of both the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are working together to arrange a repatriation flight for the group.

He says, “The Vanuatu Government brought the five islanders to Port Vila at the end of last month for a COVID test.”

Mr Tamata says sometime this week, the group will be handed over to the Solomon Islands Committee for repatriation.

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