What has happened in the South-Pacific this week?
- French Polynesia is one of the worst-affected South-Pacific states, with 18 confirmed cases. Half were discovered in people recently returned from France, only one has been hospitalised so far, the others remain in isolation.
- New Caledonia now has seven confirmed cases. Radio Rhythme Bleu reports that a crowd of about 60 people attacked the territory’s only international airport to protest against continuing air service.
- Papua New Guinea announced its first confirmed case on 20 March. The person was flown to Australia on Sunday and the government is attempting to track down everyone who may have come into contact with him.
- Fiji has four confirmed cases, three of which are from the same family: a man, his mother and his one-year-old nephew. Both the 47-year-old woman and the baby appear to have contracted the virus from the 27-year-old man, who is a flight attendant. Fiji Times reports they’re stable. A fourth case was announced Tuesday. He was identified as a 28 year-old man who traveled from Sydney to Suva last Sunday.
- The island of Aneityum in Vanuatu is in lockdown following reports that passengers or crew from the cruise ship Voyager of the Seas may have interacted with locals during an overnight visit on 11-12 March. On Tuesday the New South Wales government said seven people onboard the ship, which disembarked in Sydney on 18 March, were diagnosed with Covid-19.
- Samoa reports that six test results for Covid-19 had come back negative. Seven further samples have been sent to New Zealand for laboratory testing, and results are pending for these cases.
- Solomon Islands had three suspected cases, but all tested negative. Meanwhile the country’s central bank has revised its growth prediction for the economy to 2% in 2020 with the governor flagging the possibility of a recession
What are South-Pacific governments doing?
- Papua New Guinea: A two-week state of emergency began on Tuesday, with measures including stopping all domestic flights; no movement from one province to another for a 14-day period except for approved cargo, medicine and security personnel; the bringing froward of school holidays to start on Monday 23 March; all non-essential workers to stay at home; and for all people who arrived in Papua New Guinea from 7 March to report in to a government hotline. The Australian government has provided an additionaln US$500,000 (PGK1.7m) to assist with preparations for dealing with the impacts of Covid-19.
- Fiji: The city of Lautoka, where the first three cases were detected, is in lockdown with road blocks and patrols. The military has been called up to assist with perimeter security. The government is urgently seeking 82 passengers on three flights, whom they believe may have been in contact with the confirmed cases. The prime minister has urged people to avoid non-essential travel within Fiji.
- Solomon Islands: the country announced a 90-day ban on arrivals of cruise ships and yachts on 20 March and has reduced international flights. All international travellers are required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival.
- Vanuatu: State-owned carrier Air Vanuatu has suspended all international flight operations. Inbound travel on other carriers is restricted to citizens, residents, diplomatic corps and humanitarian workers responding to the Covid-19 crisis.
- Samoa: A state of emergency has been declared and borders are closed. Public gatherings are restricted to no more than five people. Failure to comply may lead to a fine of up to US$3,400 or a period of imprisonment of two years.
- Tonga: A state of emergency has been declared. Borders are now closed. Nightclubs and bars will be closed from 25 March and gatherings of more than 20 are prohibited.
Authors: Tess Newton Cain is a Pacific analyst and writer for The Guardian. Dan McGarry
Dan McGarry is the media director of Vanuatu Daily Post and Buzz FM 96 in Port Vila, Vanuatu