As the Coronavirus begins to spread throughout the Pacific and more Island Nations are reporting more cases, I thought I’d take the time to share some of the ways how the Pacific countries are taking proactive measures to control the spread of Covid-19 in the region, amid the global pandemic. Most of these updates come from Radio New Zealand:
In American Samoa, all schools are closed and gatherings are restricted to no more than 10 people from today. In a television address last night, Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga said the government was doing everything to protect people from the coronavirus.
Under the new alert level – Code Blue – all education institutes will be closed, public service work hours staggered, and public gatherings suspended.
Under the heightened security restrictions, all public parks and sports fields are also closed.
Fiji Airways has suspended all international flights due to the coronavirus crisis. The suspensions will be in place until the end of May. The airline said the shutdown of its international flights was necessary to respect the various border control restrictions now in place including from its Nadi hub.
Also, the Fijian government announced a ban on any gatherings of 20 or more people. Workplaces, banks, supermarkets, open-air markets, pharmacies and other areas where essential services are offered are okay for now, given you keep a safe distance apart.
The government has unveiled an economic support package to cushion the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak. Economics Minister Teva Rohfritsch said that would give relief to businesses and benefit those who are out of work.
Various taxes due by businesses can be deferred by two to three months.
Employees who are out of work are eligible for $US1000 a month.
A special allocation of $US500 is being made available for families in difficulty and urgent situations.
The public has also been assured that during the next three months there will be no cuts to water, power and phones for failing to pay the bills.
Canteens will be open at some schools to prepare meals for the poor and homeless.
He said the government goes as far as it can go, noting the assistance is falling short of what some demanded.
Hawaiian Airlines has announced the reduction of its long-haul flights to the US mainland and to American Samoa starting this week, when Hawai’i starts its 14-day quarantine requirement due to the pandemic.
Travellers into the US state will have to serve 14 days in quarantine.
Hawaiian Air has committed to providing one daily nonstop flight between Honolulu and Los Angeles and one flight between Honolulu and American Samoa in order to provide baseline of out-of-state access.
More than 1000 people have been in isolation in hotels, but some of them have been allowed to leave under strict conditions.
Restrictions on movements have been in force in the French territory since Monday midnight.
To cope with the economic impact, the government has asked France to give it half a billion US dollars as a gesture of national solidarity.
The government has assured the public that there is no shortage of supplies and that cash machines will remain stocked.
Restrictions will come into force at midnight on Tuesday morning, meaning all meetings and events will be banned for two weeks.
Papua New Guinea:
Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape has declared a national state of emergency and warned the public to prepare for a two-week national lockdown.
Mr Marape said as part of the state of emergency all domestic flights in the country would be grounded from tomorrow and all public transportation on the country’s roads are asked to cease operations.
All schools in the country are also being closed.
“Starting Tuesday 24th of March this country will come to a lockdown for a period of 14 days,” he said.
The Solomon Islands government yesterday closed the country’s border to non-citizens as a preventative measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The country is yet to register a case of Covid-19. Samples from three suspected cases sent to Australia last week all came back negative for the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said the border closure was a necessary precaution to try and prevent the entry of the coronavirus and also to prepare health authorities to respond to an outbreak if it did get through.
The government was implementing price control measures for basic goods and essential services and would take all necessary measures and actions to first prevent and – if it comes to it – control the infection and spread of Covid-19 while also maintaining economic and social stability.
The government is using a two week border closure to set up essential measures to cope with Covid-19 – should it arrive.
The government has closed the country off to all incoming flights until at least 6 April.
That would be to set up testing facilities, to train people for the response, and to prepare protective measures for health workers.
“This step is absolutely necessary for us to make sure that every citizen remains where they are. I do not intend to raise hype and tension and panic. It is just about you staying at home so we can take stock,” he said.
Health ministry chief executive Siale ‘Akau’ola said supplies were being freighted to the country.
“There should be ample time for medical equipment and protective clothing for medical officers to be delivered to Tonga on a cargo aircraft, enabling us to be ready for when the virus arrives.”
In addition to the training of civil servants, there is also a government move to reactivate community cluster groups that were last formed during the 2018 Cyclone Gita to assist the community efforts, Matangi Tonga reports.
Asian Development Bank:
Meanwhile, the Asian Development Bank is considering the deployment of a $US6.5 billion Covid-19 rescue package for developing countries, including those in the Pacific.
The director general of the bank’s Pacific Department, Leah Gutierrez, said she was closely monitoring how the coronavirus was affecting Pacific countries.
The bank was also in discussions with governments in the Pacific to ensure its aid reflected the health and economic priorities the Pacific was facing.
Everyone be safe!