Workers from China, recruited to help build facilities for the 2023 Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands, faced strict COVID-19 testing before they could join the community ©Getty Images

The Solomon Islands has pushed forward with preparations for the 2023 Pacific Games by recruiting additional workers from China to help make up for delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The workers were subject to the Government’s pre-entry requirements of testing, arrived in Honiara at the end of January and were subject to quarantine.

Jimmie Rodgers, chairman of the Solomon Islands National Hosting Authority and Secretary to the Prime Minister, confirmed to the Solomon Times Online the workers’ arrival was because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they will leave the country once preparations are complete.

"Due to the combination of COVID-19 and the social unrest in November-December period, the progress of construction is badly affected," he said.

"With the current workforce - both locals (more than 300 now) and foreign nationals we will not be able to complete the facilities on time for the games next year.

"The additional staff will ensure the facilities are completed in time for the Games."

Once the Games are finished, the accommodation facilities built are due to be transferred to the Solomon Islands National University Kukum Campus for student use.

The arrival of the Chinese staff has deepened China’s involvement in the preparation of the Pacific Games, due to take place between November 19 and December 1 next year. 

Last year, Chinese state company China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation won the bid to build seven major projects, including the 10,000-seater national Stadium costing $53 million (£38 million/€45 million).

Taiwan was originally given permission to build the facilities in July 2019, but relations between the two countries broke down.

The Solomon Islands built diplomatic relations with China instead and agreed to allow China to construct venues and facilities in 2020.

Mathew Wale, Solomon Islands opposition leader, recently criticised the Government for failing to divert funds from the Games to fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Solomon Islands has recorded a total of 4,910 coronavirus cases since the pandemic started, suffering 65 deaths. 

Wale labelled it "tragic" that the Games received SBD100 million (£9.2 million/$12.3 million/€11.1 million) whilst the healthcare system was "facing imminent collapse under COVID pressure".

The 2023 Pacific Games Facebook administrators renewed their commitment to hosting the Games.

"Now that COVID-19 is spreading in our community, it will be good for all sports men and women in the country to get vaccinated," they posted.

“Let us have the same determination of our PRC (People's Republic of China) friends who came to project manage and build the facilities for us and say, we will not let COVID-19 stand in our way.

"Let us adhere and follow the health advice and protocols for controlling and containing the virus and let’s hope our country can reach up to 90% of our population vaccinated in order for authorities to allow services to be returned, our borders opened, our economy is sustained and 2023 Pacific Games Facilities can be completed so the Games will take place in 2023."