18 Mar 2020

More COVID-19 measures implemented across Pacific

3:24 pm on 18 March 2020

Countries around the Pacific continue to scramble to implement measures to safeguard citizens from the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Air Niugini and Fiji Airways parked at Nadi International Airport in Fiji

Air Niugini and Fiji Airways parked at Nadi International Airport in Fiji Photo: RNZI/Sally Round

Papua New Guinea is to suspend all flights from Hong Kong, Philippines, Japan, Sydney and Nadi.

Prime Minister James Marape announced these latest measures to prevent COVID-19 reaching PNG.

EMTV reported Mr Marape as saying there will be "controlled entry" for flights from Brisbane, Cairns and Singapore.

He said PNG's military was on standby to assist if a first case of coronavirus was established.

PNG Defence Force was making available its medical facilities at Taurama barracks, and 10 medical personnel, for use in responding to cases for quarantine and other purposes.

Meanwhile, PNG issued a list of countries from where visitors must fulfill a 14-day pre-entry quarantine requirement.

These included all European Union member states, the UK, China and the US.

Australia, where the majority of mine workers in PNG come from, was not on the list.

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

PNG PM James Marape Photo: PNG PM Media Unit

Solomon Island sellers told to leave Bougainville markets

Solomon Islanders selling their wares at Bougainville markets have been told to go home until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

The Post Courier newspaper reported a Bougainville immigration officer broke the news to Solomons vendors at Buka market on Friday.

The instruction also applies to market vendors at Arawa and Buin.

A border post has been established in Buin where Solomon Islanders are being advised to return home.

Bougainvilleans are also being told not to cross the border.

Meanwhile, a joint awareness team, comprising a medical doctor, an MP and a customs official, have been explaining coronavirus symptoms to market goers and telling them to limit social contact.

A beach on the eastern coast of Bougainville Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Returning Tongans could be quarantined

Tonga's Ministry of Health is to provide Covid-19 quarantine services in country for Tongan nationals returning home from at-risk countries.

Travelers from or transitting through seven coronavirus hotspots, including Australia and the US, have to spend 14-days in self-quarantine outside those countries before entering Tonga.

Tongan nationals are exempt.

The chief executive of Health, Siale 'Akau'ola, said provisions had been made to quarantine them in-country.

Dr 'Akau'ola said some people could be isolated at home.

"But those who do not have that environment at home, then we have another place for them here prepared for those who can't be isolated at home."

He said the Taliai Army Camp near Fua'amotu airport had been readied as an isolation centre.

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Fua'amotu international airport Photo: AFP/Torsten Blackwood

Vanuatu braces for economic downturn

Just a day out from the national elections Vanuatu extended its COVID-19 protection measures with businesses warned to brace for a major downturn in the economy.

In a national address on Tuesday the caretaker prime minister Charlot Salwai announced the extension of the ban on cruiseship visits to 60 days, the suspension of the labour mobility scheme to Australia and New Zealand and a reduction in international flights into the country.

Mr Salwai said as of yesterday there were no confirmed or suspected cases of the coronavirus in Vanuatu.

He said health authorities were working with the W.H.O and aid partners to make sure medical personnel are prepared to deal with coronavirus if it arrives.

"I want to reassure the general public, do not cause panic in the community and among citizens and residents of this country.

"Let us all remain calm and comply with the actions and directives that come from the WHO, the world health organisation and the ministry of health," he said.

Mr Salwai said the effect of the global pandemic would hit Vanuatu's small tourism dependent economy hard, but he warned local businesses and service providers that the government would be monitoring prices to make sure the public is not victimised by opportunistic price hikes.

Prime Minister of Vanuatu Charlot Salwai

Vanuatu's caretaker PM, Charlot Salwai Photo: Supplied

Fiji bans travellers from Spain

Fiji has closed its borders to all travellers from Spain due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

All foreign nationals who have been in Spain within 14 days of their intended arrival will not be permitted to enter the country.

Spain joins China, South Korea, Italy and Iran who were already on Fiji's travel ban list.

Fijians returning from these countries were required to undergo self-quarantine for 14 days.

There are no confirmed cases of the virus in Fiji, the government said.