Marshalls may shut down outbound flights

11:33 am on 17 June 2020

The Marshall Islands Government is contemplating stopping outbound travel as ex-patriate communities in the United States are hard hit by Covid-19.

This comes after reports that the Marshallese community in northwestern Arkansas has lost at least 14 people to the coronavirus and dozens of others are infected.

RNZ Pacific Marshall Islands correspondent, Giff Johnson, said similar things are happening in Marshallese communities in Washington, Oregon, Iowa and other places.

"I think that's why there is an interest to shut down travel in the meantime, because, on top of people going out and being in situations where they can get infected, they are very high risk, because so many people here have diabetes and other underlying health conditions," he said

"All the bullet point risk factors affect our community."

The Marshall Islands is free of Covid-19 and one of the factors attributed to that is a ban on inbound flights.

Steady out-migration to the United States is a major factor contributing to minimal population growth in the Marshall Islands. Here, passengers board a United Airlines flight departing Majuro.

Normally Marshallese regularly travel and migrate to the US Photo: RNZI / Giff Johnson

Call for Arkansas poultry plants to shut after Covid-19 deaths

Meanwhile a Marshallese community worker in Arkansas wants poultry plants in the Springdale area shut for two weeks.

Many of the Covid-19 casualties have been people working at the plants.

Albious Latior said he would like to see the plants shut down for cleaning.

"Let's take a break. Let's take two weeks off and then re-sanitize in and out of all the plants.

"Let the workers be with their families and be with them for two weeks, and then come back and we will see maybe a good result," he said.

The Marshallese community in northwest Arkansas is the largest such community on the US mainland.

While it makes up just a fraction of the total population, the community accounts for about half of the coronavirus cases there.

The local Marshall Islands Consul General, Eldon Alik, said the community was devastated.

Earlier a researcher from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences said a lack of testing as the pandemic took hold in March and April was the major factor in allowing the disease to spread within the Marshallese community.

A glove and mask drive organised by the Marshallese community

A glove and mask drive organised by the Marshallese community Photo: Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese