With the first community outbreak of the coronavirus in the Solomon Islands spreading rapidly through the largely unvaccinated population, the Red Cross warned Thursday that the Pacific Island nation’s fragile health care system is at risk of becoming overwhelmed.
Honiara’s capital has one hospital. Authorities have transformed a sports facility into a field clinic and turned the stadium into an immunization center.
“What’s currently happening is they are trying to keep only people who are really sick with COVID-19, with difficulty breathing, in those facilities,” Manuri told The Associated Press in an interview from Honiara.
“Otherwise the advice is for people who have tested positive to self-isolate in their homes.”
Manuri explained that 690,000 people are spread over hundreds of islands. Some have only small clinics, while others don’t even have any.
“I think the fear now is if it goes to the villages it will be a very serious problem,” he said.
Last week, Solomon Islands authorities stated that COVID-19 was present in one-in-two people living in the capital. But, due to the absence of testing, it is difficult to determine exactly how many have the virus. Manuri also said the flu, which is still prevalent, is also being reported.
Officially, COVID-19 was responsible for 68 deaths, and there were 5,043 COVID-19 cases. According to Our World in Data.
Many other Pacific countries now are experiencing first outbreaks of coronavirus due to the existence of the contagious Omicron virus.
All of them, like the Solomon Islands have very limited access to health care, which may lead to difficulties in helping others.
“We have already seen in Fiji and Papua New Guinea how this ruthless virus overwhelms hospitals and health systems,” said Katie Greenwood, the head of the Red Cross’ Pacific delegation, in a statement. “As COVID takes off across the Pacific, it’s more important than ever that vaccines get in the arms of people who are unvaccinated.”
Authorities in the Solomon Islands have struggled with vaccine distribution, especially on remote islands. Manuri also stated that there was a lot of vaccine uncertainty due to false information being shared.
However, the current epidemic has caused people to rush to get vaccinated. In fact, some vaccination stations are overcrowded.
“People are lining up all day,” he said.
Manuri stated that the surge in interest is partly due to the epidemic, and also to new regulations by government closing down many facilities for non-vaccinated persons.
According to Our World in Data, 11% are currently fully vaccinated. However, 17% of people have had their first shots.
A few cases were also reported elsewhere in the region. Fiji, Samoa, Samoa, Palau have all been affected by the ongoing disease for months.
Palau is home to nearly all its population, with 68% of Fiji’s residents and 65% in Samoa. Kiribati only has 38% of its population, while 24% more have received their first vaccine.
Tonga was coated with ash after the Jan. 15 eruption of the massive undersea Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano nearby, then hit with a tsunami that followed.
The coronavirus grew as international assistance was received.
The virus has already infected more than 200 people. To contain the spread of the virus, lockdown measures were enacted to ensure that there are no deaths.
Tonga’s total vaccination rate is 61%. The population of Tonga eligible for vaccination is 90%. More than 98% are certified to have received at least one dose.
Saia Piukala from the Health Ministry said that there have not been any cases where patients are critically ill and an Australian naval ship is available to assist in case things get worse.
“The ship has 40 beds and three operating rooms,” he was quoted as saying by Tonga’s online news portal Matangi Tonga. “They can help if any emergencies happen right now.”