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Coronavirus: Pacific borders tighten further

Ministry of Health staff screening all arriving passengers at Amata Kabua International Airport in Majuro Photo: Hilary Hosia

Pacific countries have further tightened border measures to try to keep the coronavirus from gaining a foothold in the islands.

Six cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the Pacific so far – the first three in French Polynesia and, last night, three more were confirmed in Guam.

Health officials have made no secret of their fears about the rapidly spreading virus, and what it could do in isolated countries with limited health resources. Many have pointed to the devastation wrought by the measles in Samoa last year.

In Samoa, the government further tightened travel restrictions to keep out the coronavirus over the weekend.

Travellers from 33 countries – including Australia, but not New Zealand – are now required to spend at least two weeks in self-quarantine and provide coronavirus test results no more than five days old.

Anyone entering from any country – including returning residents – must show proof of having had a medical check within three days of arrival.

In French Polynesia, all cruise ships have been banned and work permits suspended. Anyone entering must now also show medical certificates.

The Cooks Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Tonga have also banned cruise ships.

This weekend, Tonga also declared a public health emergency, giving powers to authorities to ban mass gatherings and other events, including shutting kava bars.

Fiji bans cruise ships over virus fears

Fiji’s government has banned cruise ships and international events, while foreigners will be banned from all local events.

In an address to the nation last night, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said all measures were being taken to reduce the spread of Covid-19 when it arrives in Fiji.

He said isolation units had been prepared in each of the country’s divisions.

Mr Bainimarama said all government ministers and officials would be barred from overseas travel.

“Cruise ships will be banned from berthing anywhere in Fiji. Also from [Monday], international events will not be allowed in Fiji, and local events will be closed to all guests coming in from overseas.

“We also highly discourage all Fijians from travelling overseas.”

Mr Bainimarama said the government would prevent a supplementary budget on 26 March to help the economy weather the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, Hawaii’s deputy governor says partnerships need to be formed across the region to improve vaccination rates.

Josh Green, who’s also a qualified physician, travelled to Samoa in the midst of the measles epidemic last year to help treat patients and vaccinate people.

He said many countries did not have the budgets to maintain full vaccination levels, and some kind of basic safety net needed to be provided.

But Dr Green also hit out at people who travel to Pacific countries unvaccinated, or spread misinformation.

“I don’t think it’s moral to go and travel if you’re sick or you could make other people sick, knowing that they may be vulnerable.”

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