25 Feb 2021

In brief: News from around the Pacific

4:44 pm on 25 February 2021

Samoa has consolidated two repatriation flights, Vanuatu women concerned about potential bubble, the Kiribati government responds to reports of the sale of Fiji land and New Zealand hands over news equipment to PNG.

Fiji Airways plane at Nadi International Airport

Photo: Alex Perrottet/RNZ

Samoa consolidates repatriation flights

Samoa has consolidated two repatriation flights that had been scheduled over the next couple of months.

However the Chair of the National Emergency Operations Center, Agafili Shem Leo, says a smaller flight will replace the services previously scheduled for for 26 March and 17 April.

TV1Samoa reported Agafili saying the new flight will be operated by Fiji Airways and will fly direct from Los Angeles to Samoa via Nadi.

He says a smaller plane will be used as there are less than 50 returning patients who have completed medical treatment overseas.

Meanwhile, Health Director Leausa Dr Take Naseri has confirmed that the man who had tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving on a repatriation flight two weeks ago has been recorded as the country's first official case.

The man remains in managed isolation at the country's main hospital.

Previous cases at the border had been identified as historical cases.

Vanuatu women's group worried about potential travel bubble

Vanuatu women have raised concerns over a decision by the local government to pursue the opening of a tamtam travel bubble with New Caledonia.

The president of the City Centre Women in Business said their members were one of the first to come into contact with tourists, which poses a risk for contracting Covid-19.

Marie Rose Marango said the association had over 60 women and they sold their products in the centre of Port Vila, which was popular with visitors.

Marango said there had been no awareness by health authorities regarding future visitors to the country.

"We had to sign one policy that we have to continue washing our hands and all that and keep away distance and the health, they haven't come, but we know the country has advised everyone in Port Vila that we need to continue to washing of hands and keeping distance from each other."

New Caledonian authorities have yet to confirm the tamtam bubble.

Kiribati says reports of Fiji land sale incorrect

Media reports in Kiribati stating that the government are considering selling its land in Fiji to China are not true.

The former Kiribati government bought several thousand hectares at Notoavatu on Vanua Levu from the Anglican Church in 2014.

It was a site to which the people of Kiribati could move if their home islands were swamped by the effects of climate change.

The Kiribati government said while the reports are incorrect, they have been consulting with China on possible projects, including developing agriculture there.

NZ hands over news equipment in PNG

New Zealand's High Commission in Papua New Guinea has handed over more journalism equipment and training resources to local media.

Broadcasters NBC TV and EMTV are the latest recipients of resources provided under the Pacific Cooperation Broadcasting Limited, a New Zealand initiative.

The media outlets were hosted by the High Commission in Port Moresby.

New Zealand is supporting the media sector with mobile journalism kits, field production equipment, and editing laptops to support remote reporting.

It's also providing journalism training.

Tonga power network upgrade progressing

The Asian Development Bank says Tonga has achieived a significant milestone with the completion of the first two stages of the Nuku'alofa power network upgrade.

After Cyclone Gita, the capital, Nuku'alofa, faced an estimated $US46 million dollars of repairs to its electricity network.

The ADB, working with New Zealand and the Tonga government, developed a five-stage restoration plan that would ensure safer, more reliable and more resilient power supplies.

New Zealand funded the upgrade of priority area 1,which covers the main urban centre.

The ADB supported the network upgrade for priority area 2, which has a concentration of businesses.