3 Feb 2020

Pacific nations move to protect borders from Wuhan coronavirus

3:14 pm on 3 February 2020

Fiji and other Pacific nations are joining the growing list of countries restricting access following the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China.

Nadi International Airport, Fiji

Nadi International Airport, Fiji Photo: RNZI/Sally Round

Fiji's borders will now be closed to all foreign nationals who have been in mainland China within 14 days of their intended travel to Fiji.

Similar to newly-instituted policies in Singapore and Australia, no passenger arrivals or transits will be permitted for those falling under these controls, effective immediately and until further notice.

The government said there were no confirmed cases of the virus in Fiji.

In New Zealand, foreigners from China are banned from entering the country from today.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the ban might remain in place for a fortnight.

The border closure means all foreign citizens who've travelled from or through China will be barred from entering the country. There are more than 14,500 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus, with many of of them are outside Wuhan.

Just over 300 people have died from the virus, and 348 have recovered.

The World Health Organisation has declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, but said global trade and travel restrictions were not needed.

Passengers from international flights at Auckland Airport on Monday 27 January, after flights from Guangzhou and Shanghai had touched down.

Auckland's International Airport. Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen

In the Northern Marianas, Sichuan Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, and Beijing Capital Airlines have voluntarily suspended or cancelled their flights to Saipan in February due to the outbreak.

The Commonwealth Ports Authority said all three airlines carried passengers from mainland China to the Commonwealth.

It said said Sichuan Airlines suspended all flights into the Saipan from last Saturday until further notice.

China Eastern also cancelled all flights from last Saturday until further notice. Beijing Capital Airlines cancelled all flights beginning last Friday until the end of February.

Last week, Governor Ralph Torres signed an executive order effectively banning Chinese tourists from visiting the islands in response to the growing threat of the coronavirus.

However, since the CNMI does not have the regulatory authority to stop travellers from China from flying to the CNMI without federal consent, the executive order will be done in collaboration with the airlines, the US Department of Transportation, US Federal Aviation Administration, and the US Department of Homeland Security.

Young students wear face masks in the arrivals hall at Hong Kong's international airport on January 22, 2020.

Young students wear face masks in the arrivals hall at Hong Kong's international airport on January 22, 2020. Photo: Anthony Wallace / AFP

In American Samoa, the health department has also advised residents to postpone travel, unless necessary, to China and other countries affected by the virus.

The department issued a travel advisory over the weekend, in support of Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga's 29 January order, which extended the measles outbreak public emergency declaration and expanded it to include measures to counter the new coronavirus.

The advisory includes a requirement for passengers transiting through American Samoa on Hawaiian Airlines heading to Samoa.

"Travellers transiting from Hawaiian Airlines flights are required to acquire a health exam clearance three days before travelling to Samoa," the advisory states.

The health department also "strongly recommends" that people intending to travel to any country affected by the coronavirus "postpone their travel arrangements unless necessary".

Among the measures implemented in American Samoa to counter the coronavirus, all foreign nationals - except Samoa passport holders - must enter the territory through the Hawaii route.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a screening station at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu.

American Samoa also requires travellers coming from a country where coronavirus has been reported to remain in an unaffected country for 14-days and obtain medical clearance before entering the territory.

Heath officials are also reminding the public of the signs and symptoms of the coronavirus, which includes: fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

In neighbouring Samoa, compulsory screening of all visitors remains in effect for all ports of entry.

Meanwhile, in Solomon Islands, the government has banned the entry of any person who has been to a country with confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Government officials, MPs and the public have also been banned from traveling to China, and non-essential travel to other countries with the virus has been restricted.

Immigration Minister Clezy Rore signed and gazetted the new regulations on Friday.

They also stipulate that any person who has for spent 14 days in a country with the virus before arriving in Solomon Islands will be requested to board a return flight or be subjected to detention or quarantine.

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