Pacific borders tightened further in bid to keep out coronavirus

Majuro airport Covid-19 tests
Ministry of Health staff screening all arriving passengers at Amata Kabua International Airport in Majuro, capital of the Marshall Islands. Image: Hilary Hosia/RNZ Pacific

By RNZ Pacific

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 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.

READ MORE: Global coronavirus updates – Italy reports 368 deaths in 24 hours

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
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 Voreqe 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.

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.”

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

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

This article is republished under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

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