16 Mar 2020

Pacific nations take further measures against coronavirus

4:30 pm on 16 March 2020

Pacific countries are continuing to take active measures to counter the entry and spread of Covid-19 coronavirus, amid the global pandemic.

Three people have been confirmed to have Covid-19 in Guam. It is the second territory in the Pacific to confirm cases of the virus, after French Polynesia declared three cases last week.

Saipan in the Northern Marianas.

Saipan in the Northern Marianas. Photo: Supplied

In the Northern Marianas, schools and government offices have been closed until further notice due to the threat of the virus.

The commonwealth's governor, Ralph Torres, ordered the closure of government offices and ordered non-essential personnel to stay home until further notice.

The public school system announced it would suspend classes for three days to allow the board of education time to decide its next steps.

Northern Marianas College is suspending all face-to-face classes through Tuesday as it readies to transition its classes online.

The governor also asked residents who were recently off-island for work or travel to self-quarantine themselves for at least 14 days.

While the CNMI remained without a confirmed case, his administration would continue its ongoing surveillance measures at the airport, hospital, and around Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.

Mr Torres will meet with Commonwealth Health Care Corp chief executive Esther Muna, her leadership team, and the government's Covid-19 Task Force today to advance the next steps of the CNMI's Covid-19 pandemic plan.

Solomons takes proactive measures

In Solomon Islands, the government said it was taking all necessary and proactive measures to counter the entry and spread of the virus.

The government has established an oversight committee to address the Covid-19 threat.

The oversight committee comprises of senior officials and experts from various government ministries and agencies.

Measures in place at points of entry include travel restrictions to deny entry for travellers from a list of restricted countries.

They also include quarantine of travellers who arrived within the 14 day prior to being in any of the affected countries with daily monitoring.

All passengers entering the country will be screened for fever and symptoms of measles or Covid-19.

The committee is also conducting public awareness on Covid-19 and measles through various media outlets.

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Photo: RNZI

According to the government, China has been assisting by providing scientific and medical information on the virus.

Revised public health declaration cards that all international visitors and returning residents must fill on arrival and screening of passengers with fever and/or symptoms of measles or Covid-19.

The government further encourages the public to exercise responsibility and issues a stern warning to refrain from creating false rumours that might cause fear and create panic.

Anyone found to be circulating or publishing false information, will be charged under the relevant laws.

PNG announces restrictions at border

Papua New Guinea is requiring 14-day quarantine and medical clearances for all incoming travellers from countries affected by coronavirus.

Prime Minister James Marape has also announced 60-day bans on cruise ships, and on official overseas travel by all public servants.

Mr Marape addressed the nation on the pandemic, saying while PNG has no reported cases of covid-19, the risk of the virus reaching the country remained high.

Travellers from Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan and China among others will have to complete a 14-day quarantine outside the country.

Mr Marape said a surveillance system was monitoring the movement within the country of visitors and returning residents.

PNG has also banned the movement of people across its land border to Indonesia and sea borders between Bougainville and Solomon Islands.

Meanwhile, quarantine facilities have been established in Port Moresby and Lae, and are being established in Rabaul and Mount Hagen.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape addresses a business discussion in Port Moresby, January 2020.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape. Photo: PNG PM Media Unit

Mr Marape said the government had established strong links and partnership with bilateral partners and donor agencies including China and the World Health Organisation to address the coronavirus threat.

The prime minister said as well as being a major health issue, the virus would have an impact on the economy and businesses as it impacted the movement of goods and services.

The government had also taken on board the pandemic as a national security concern and would involve the Defence Force and other security coordinating agencies of government in due course.

Vanuatu bans public servants from overseas travel

Vanuatu's Ministry of Internal Affairs has banned all public servants from going on all overseas travel until further notice.

Also as part of the country's response to the covid-19 threat, all Vanuatu nationals on overseas travel will be quarantined for 14 days before returning home.

Meanwhile, the caretaker government is urging voters to turn up to polling stations and vote in this week's general election, despite fears over coronavirus.

The election is to take place on 19 March.

The Daily Post reports that the Ministry of Internal Affairs will provide hand-sanitisers to all voters at all polling stations.

While Vanuatu's Coronavirus Task Force has prepared a quarantine facility at Vila Central Hospital to isolate first patients there, the country is still free of the virus.

And Samoa's Minister of Education said all schools would have to be closed down if coronavirus reaches the country.

Loau Keneti Sio said the government and his ministry had policies to prepare for dangerous diseases reaching Samoa's shores.

He said the government would have no option but to close down all schools in the country if the virus arrived.

Sio, who is also minister of Culture and Sports, also said sporting events in the country would also have to be cancelled under a state of emergency.

The Samoa Observer reports that the Ministry of Health addressed rumours spreading on social media that the virus was already in Samoa.

The minister says Samoa does not have any reported cases of covid-19.

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