7 Apr 2021

In brief: News from around the Pacific for 7 April

5:01 pm on 7 April 2021

.. Photo: Boeing/Fiji Airways

Fiji welcomes return of 737 Max planes to the skies

Fiji has accepted the return of its Boeing 737 Max aircraft to service.

The Civil Aviation Authority says it has adopted service requirements of the US regulator Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for Boeing 737 Max aircraft operated by Fiji Airways.

The Fiji authority said the FAA had signed an order in November that allowed the 737 Max to return to the skies.

Earlier the Max was pulled from service after two planes crashed in Indonesia in 2019 and Ethiopia in 2018, killing all 346 people on board.

The authority said the re-design and re-certification of the B737 Max aircraft by Boeing and FAA respectively not only included software and hardware design changes, 'but changes to crew procedures as well as training enhancements, validating the aircraft as safe to fly'.

Samoa welcomes Trans-Tasman bubble

The chief executive of the Samoa Tourism Authority, Fa'amatuainu Lenatai Suifua, says the Tasman travel bubble inspires confidence among Pacific tourism operators.

New Zealand and Australia will allow quarantine-free travel from Monday week.

Fa'amatuainu says this move is an important precursor to a broader Pacific bubble.

Fa'amatuainu says the health and safety of our local Samoan aiga, or family, along with Australian and New Zealand travellers, remains Samoa's highest priority.

He says with vaccinations being rolled out, alongside with contact tracing and regular testing - a strong framework has been developed for travellers to have confidence in.

Fa'amatuainu says Samoa's untouched beauty and authentic nature is the perfect place for Australians and New Zealanders to feel a world away, without venturing far from the safety of their doorstep once the travel bubble has been established.

Second phase of Fiji's vaccination rollout begins

The second phase of Fiji's Covid-19 vaccination rollot has begun.

The FBC reports that so far over 30,000 Fijians have registered for the AstraZeneca vaccinations, with the Ministry of Health saying 50,000 people will be eligible to receive the two-dose vaccine during this phase.

Those eligible for the shot in this phase include frontline staff at the borders, healthcare workers, police and military officers, tourism and hotel workers, and civil servants.

Also eligible are people aged over 60 or with medical conditions that increase the risk of severe disease if they get infected with Covid.

Health Minister Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete said with the arrival of more vaccines, the numbers will increase.

As vaccination teams move around communities, as well as giving vaccinations, they are registering people to get the shot later.

The Ministry has urged those eligible for this second phase, and Fijians over the age of 18, to register for the vaccine.

Meanwhile, the roll-out of the second phase of vaccination began at Queen Elizabeth Barracks in Suva.

Niue to decide on allocation of covid relief

The Niue Government will decide how to allocate $NZ9 million provided by New Zealand as additional relief for the effects of Covid-19.

The New Zealand Government announced the funding late last month as it works towards a Covid-19 vaccination schedule with the Polynesian states.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says the additional economic support is earmarked specifically for initiatives to respond to the impacts of Covid-19.

The ministry also stressed it's for the Niue Government to decide how to apply these funds, as it sees the need.

New Zealand also said last month that still to be determined is each country's readiness to roll-out the vaccines, and the logistics of delivering doses.

Former Samoa police officer charged for harming poll candidate

A former police officer in Samoa has been arrested and charged with making statements causing harm.

A former deputy speaker of Parliament, who's contesting this week's general election, had filed the complaint with police.

The offender told EFKS TV in an interview that the former deputy speaker, who is also a former policeman, had allegedly raped a woman officer.

The complainant on social media has denied the allegation and questions the timing of it, just ahead of the election.

The accused is now in police custody awaiting appearance in court, but is understood to be seeking bail.

Meanwhile the former deputy speaker has indicated on social media that he plans to sue the television station.

Charges possible over alleged assault of Fijian student

Charges have yet to be laid over the alleged assault of a Year 12 student at a prominent school in Fiji last week.

Police say the student was allegedly assaulted by an adult while trying to stop an altercation between two fellow students on the school premises.

The student was admitted to a Suva hospital for injuries sustained in the alleged assault.

Police investigations are continuing.