Pacific coronavirus: Cases jump to 26 across the region

Wutung PNG border post
Closer coronavirus watch ... The Wutung entry facility at the border between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea is an important trading access point. Image: Johnny Blades/RNZ Pacific

By Sri Krishnamurthi

The total number of Covid-19 coronavirus cases in the Pacific region was today recorded at 26.

In Guam, tally has risen by 4 to 12 cases while dozens more remain in isolation.

In a statement, the Health Department said only one of the four new cases had a travel history, raising fears of community transmission.

READ MORE: Al Jazeera’s coronavirus global updates – Italy overtakes China’s death toll

From noon today, all public spaces, bars, restaurants, recreation and leisure facilities were being ordered closed.

Churches have also been asked to stop public attendance and to limit numbers at funerals.

The government has already imposed mandatory quarantine for anyone arriving on the island.

In Papua New Guinea, MPs from the Sepik region say they will fund strong surveillance of the 700 km long border with Indonesian-ruled Papua.

West Sepik province hosts the main Wutung land access point between PNG and the neighbouring country where Covid-19 cases are surging, reports RNZ Pacific.

Restricted entry

Fiji has restricted entry for travellers from the United States, UK and other European countries as it recorded its first case of Covid-19 in the western city of Lautoka.

ABC Pacific coronavirus updates.

As of midnight last night, border restrictions on mainland China, Italy, Iran, Spain and South Korea has been extended to foreign nationals who have been present in the US and all of Europe, including the United Kingdom, within 14 days of their intended travel to Fiji.

All 91 schools in Lautoka have been closed until further notice as a precautionary measure.

Also, from midnight last night, non-essential businesses in the greater Lautoka area have been ordered closed, and the government has asked all who live in the area to stay in the area.

Gatherings of more than 20 people – including meetings and religious services – are now banned, and all nightclubs, gyms, cinemas, swimming pools and fitness centres have also been ordered closed.

French Polynesia has seen its total increase by eight, to 11.

The domestic carrier Air Tahiti announced it would suspend all scheduled flights from Sunday night.

Public places closed
In New Caledonia, the government has ordered the closure of public places, such as restaurants, bars, nakamals and casinos, for two weeks.

Meetings of more than 20 people are now banned in New Caledonia and schools; training institutes and the university have been closed.

Non-residents are not allowed to enter New Caledonia, while passenger traffic between New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna, another French territory, has been suspended.

In Samoa, only just coming through the other side of a measles epidemic that killed 83 people, is now awaiting test results for its first suspected case of Covid-19.

One person from Auckland is being held in an Apia hospital. A government statement on Wednesday said test results would take “10-20 working days,” but that was amended on Thursday, with test results now expected to take three to five days.

A young woman being tested faced online abuse while in Samoa after her identity was revealed by the local media.

Either way, Samoa’s cabinet was holding a special meeting today to decide on further restrictions. But Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi hinted in a radio show last night that this could involve a complete border shutdown.

READ MORE: Tonga, Samoa declare emergencies, shut borders over coronavirus

Radio interview
He told 2AP radio that flights to and from Australia “will be stopped for a very long time,” while flights to New Zealand could be severely curtailed.

Tuilaepa said if the tests come back positive, the country could go into lockdown – that would include shutting schools, businesses and public transport. Similar to what happened during the measles outbreak.

Samoa already has some of the strictest measures: all arrivals need a medical certificate, and people need to self-isolate before travelling. But essentially, the Samoan government is asking people not to travel there at all – including Samoans abroad returning for reunions, weddings and funerals .

Meanwhile, results of a third suspected case of Covid-19 in the Solomon Islands has tested negative.

In Vanuatu, voters continued to go to the polls despite concerns over Covid-19.

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