9 Mar 2021

In brief: News from around the Pacific for 9 March

9:33 pm on 9 March 2021

Another person has died of Covid-19 in French Polynesia, bringing the death toll to 141, Samoa suspends sale of firearms and ammo ahead of election, and a group of Kiribati sailors remain stranded in Germany.

An ambulance enters the Taaone hospital in Papeete, the French overseas territory of Polynesia. (2014)

Photo: AFP

Covid death toll in French Polynesia hits 141

Another person has died of Covid-19 in French Polynesia, bringing the death toll to 141.

In the past four days, 23 new infections were detected, raising the total tally to almost 18,500.

Eight people are in hospital care, inclusive two in intensive care.

So far, 8,000 people have received their first jab of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Almost all cases emerged since July when the border was reopened and quarantine requirements were abolished.

Last month, France ordered the suspension of international flights from and to Tahiti, thereby halting tourism.

Northern Marianas looks at changing Covid procedures for returning residents

Health authorities in the Northern Marianas are looking at changing Covid-19 procedures to allow for five-day self-quarantining for returning residents upon meeting certain conditions.

The conditions would include the person being vaccinated and not living in a crowded household.

However the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation Chief Executive, Esther Muña, said the option was not automatically available as the returning resident must go through a review process before being approved.

Meanwhile the CHCC has announced another case of Covid-19 at the border, bringing the CNMI's total number of infections to 146.

The person was identified through testing upon arrival and had been moved into isolation.

Out of the 146 Covid-19 cases in the CNMI, 120 were identified by travel screening while 26 were local transmissions.

There are currently seven people in isolation. The CNMI has had no local transmission for over 200 days.

Samoa suspends sale of firearms and ammo ahead of vote

Samoa police have suspended the sale of firearms and ammunition ahead of next month's general election.

The Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keil, issued the order to businesses which are licensed to import and sell firearms.

His letter was sent out last week and the temporary ban comes into force today.

It's the first general election in Samoa for which such safety measures are put in place.

On election day, a ban on the sale of alcohol will also be imposed.

I-Kiribati sailors stranded in Germany

A group of sailors from Kiribati remains stranded in Germany due to Covid border closures.

130 men from Kiribati are now living in a youth hostel in the city of Hamburg and haven't seen their families for nearly two years.

The Kiribati government sealed off borders at the start of the pandemic to stop the virus getting onto the country, which has still recorded no positive cases.

It's still not clear when the men will be able to return.

Outgoing Forum head says women leadership is critical

The outgoing secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor, says it's critical women and girls are part of decision-making and leadership in the Pacific.

Speaking on International Women's Day, she said an equal, inclusive and just future for women is critical to the Forum's Blue Pacific, where women's participation and decision making in public life remain extremely low.

Dame Meg said many women and girls still faced discrimination based on gender and sex.

She said this undermined their human rights, their leadership and economic potential, and the decisions they make in their communities and families.

Dame Meg said promoting shared decision-making at the household level, in communities and in the management of natural resources was a key step to changing social norms.

Six people in custody after meth bust

Six people have been taken into custody in French Polynesia over an attempt to smuggle 1.5 kilogrammes of methamphetamine through the port of Papeete.

They are suspected of involvement in a ring trying to import the drug in a container shipped from Nevada via Los Angeles.

The consignment was confiscated and according to the public prosecutor, the drugs were seized as a result of an investigation launched in October.

Four of the six suspects have been remanded in prison.

The prosecutor said despite a reduction in the number of flights from the US, traffickers continue to try to supply the Tahiti drugs market from the US.

Four removed from American Samoa repatriation list

Four people have been removed from the second group of American Samoa residents set to be repatriated from the United States after testing positive for Covid-19.

The Chair of the House Health Committee, Andra Samoa, said that the number of people in the quarantined group in Hawai'i had dropped because of the results.

According to medical authorities, four of the 195 who checked into the quarantine hotel returned positive results for their first tests and have now been moved into the state isolation facility.

The next set of tests are set for tomorrow before the travellers depart for Pago Pago.