17 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: Stricter measures introduced in Guam, Cook Islands

2:23 pm on 17 March 2020
Rarotonga Airport

Rarotonga Airport Photo: RNZI / Mary Baines

Schools are closed in two US territories, the Cook Islands has stopped flights from everywhere but New Zealand, and several more countries have tightened their border controls.

Countries around the Pacific are continuing to further isolate themselves in a bid to stave off a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in the region.

Six cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in the Pacific - three in Guam and three in French Polynesia - since Thursday. No new cases were declared on Monday.

After three residents were confirmed to have Covid-19 on Sunday, Guam's government restricted public gatherings and closed all public schools on Monday. It also closed government offices for two weeks.

The governor, Lou-Leon Guerrero, also ordered an immediate mandatory quarantine for incoming visitors from areas affected by Covid-19, although the airport authority was reported as needing clarification on how to implement the executive order.

Schools and government offices are also closed in the neighbouring Northern Marianas.

In French Polynesia, one person remains in hospital and 67 people have been placed into self-isolation, the government said, since three cases were confirmed late last week.

All Pacific countries have now imposed some kind of border restrictions, with most now requiring people to self-isolate for 14 days.

Several more have also banned all non-essential government travel, and are encouraging their citizens to do the same.

On Monday, the Cook Islands announced that it had further strengthened its restrictions, now requiring travellers to quarantine in New Zealand for 14 days before heading there.

Flights from French Polynesia, Australia and the United States had been suspended to support the measure.

However, deputy prime minister Mark Brown said simple measures were probably still the most effective way to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

"Social distancing, washing your hands, self isolation. If you look at the statistics today, those countries that adopted these measures early have the lowest rate of infection," he said.

Meanwhile, Auckland Airport is conducting health checks on flights to the Pacific.

It said all travellers to the Pacific except French Polynesia, where three Covid-19 cases have been confirmed, will take a temperature check.

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