SYDNEY, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare made a statement to the public on Monday, urging them to secure the country's provincial borders, as COVID-19 spread to the neighboring island of Bougainville.
On Aug. 7, Papua New Guinea's rising infections officially reached the autonomous region of Bougainville, which neighbors the Solomons' western islands by stretches of water less than ten km across in some places.
Police recently clamped down on the border area, establishing observation posts and ramping up patrols, however there remained serious concerns that the virus could cross into one of Solomon Islands' western villages, placing the entire country at risk.
"Fellow Solomon Islanders, we are still COVID-19 free. However, we must not be complacent. If we become careless, we may not remain COVID-19 free for long," Sogavare said.
"I plead with you to please do your best to protect our country, our villages, our families and our children -- by not letting anyone from the other side of the border to cross and mix with our villagers or families."
As of Monday, PNG had 214 confirmed cases and three deaths related to COVID-19, with evidence of community transmission, according to Sogavare.
He said that his office, along with the Ministry of Health and the National Disaster Management Office, were working with provincial governments on the islands nearest to Bougainville to implement a deterrence strategy.
In the meantime, Sogavare instructed Solomon Islanders on the western borders that if anybody attempts to cross from the other side, not to interact with them, instruct them to remain in their canoe or boat and inform local officials to take appropriate action.
He added that those crossing the border illegally face "the full force of the law." Enditem