French Polynesia rules out repatriations during Covid-19 crisis

7:57 pm on 9 April 2020

The French Polynesian president has told residents stranded in France they will have to wait for a return home until the restrictions imposed over the Covid-19 outbreak have been lifted.

Edouard Fritch gave his message on social media as airlines linking France with Tahiti had all suspended their services.

Air Tahiti Nui

Air Tahiti Nui Photo: Supplied

An emergency air link was being provided by Air Tahiti Nui which had been contracted by the French government for two months to maintain a flight every 10 days via Guadeloupe, to transport supplies to French Polynesia.

A first such flight left for Paris this week, carrying stranded tourists but the plane won't be allowed to bring back passengers.

Mr Fritch said passenger flights have been stopped not to punish French Polynesians wanting to return, but to protect Polynesians and their families.

He said despite border controls, the virus entered French Polynesia with those who came from France.

The first case in Tahiti was recorded a month ago when a local politician, returning from Paris, tested positive.

Mr Fritch appealed for patience, saying nobody wanted such a situation.

On social media, it was being noted that the other French territory in the Pacific - New Caledonia - launched a repatriation programme for its estimated 1700 residents stranded abroad.

Edouard Fritch

Edouard Fritch Photo: Supplied/ Présidence de la Polynésie française