12 Apr 2021

In brief: News from around the Pacific

7:22 pm on 12 April 2021
Downtown Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

Downtown Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Swift rise in Covid-19 cases in PNG continues

Another person has died from Covid-19 in Papua New Guinea, taking the death toll to 69.

The death was reported in the Jiwaka province, increasing the province's death toll to two.

This comes as the National Pandemic Response Controller confirmed 192 new cases in PNG over the past day, taking the total number in the country to 8,602.

This means 533 cases have been confirmed in PNG since Friday

Most are from the National Capital District, whose total number of confirmed cases of the virus so far has reached 3,516.

Covid-19 cases have been recorded in all but one of the twenty-two provinces across PNG.

The province with the second highest number of cases is Western Province, located on PNG's border with Indonesia, 2,247 cases.

Quarantine developments in Vanuatu

Two Papua New Guineans are in quarantine in Vanuatu's capital Port Vila due to testing positive to Covid-19 on their arrival from Port Moresby.

The Daily Post newspaper reports the country's Director General of Health, Russell Tamata as saying that they have to be retested to make sure they are not infected when they are released.

There have been calls on the social media urging the Minister of Health to repatriate the PNG pair as soon as possible in order for Vanuatu to remain free of the virus in terms of community transmission.

Meanwhile, Vanuatu's National Disaster Committee has confirmed that all citizens, residents and non-residents should pay their own quarantine costs before they are released in Port Vila.

Tamata is quoted by the Daily Post as saying the requirement is an administrative cost and not a regulation, and that it may vary according to the costs charged by the management of hotel facility where returnees are accommodated.

Since the start of quarantine, the government has been meeting all accommodation and meal costs for returnees.

Health Minister gives shot as Nauru begins vaccine rollout

Nauru's Health Minister, Isabella Dageago, who is a qualified nurse, has given the President, Lionel Aingimea, his first Covid-19 vaccine shot.

Officials say Nauru is now well on the way to having 100 per cent of its adult population immunised after starting on Friday with Aingimea receiving the first shot of the AstraZenenca vaccine.

Aingimea said not only was Nauru Covid-19 free but by the end of June he believes it woulc=d be the only country in the world that is 100 per cent protected through vaccination.

Departing Tonga police commissioner identifies national security challenges

Tonga's Police Commissioner Stephen Caldwell says police have to rethink how to respond to national security challenges.

Caldwell made the comments during his farewell parade over the weekend.

He said the challenges were the increasing prevalence of illicit drugs in the community and the threat of the health pandemic.

"In challenging times we will continue to develop, we will continue to forge new opportunities with local and regional partners to fight the war on drugs. The police cannot do this alone," he said.

As well, Caldwell pointed towards the ever-present challenges of living in a region with frequent and more intense tropical cyclones.

Commissioner Caldwell will return to New Zealand after six years in Tonga.

He had been an Area Commander in New Zealand and done overseas stints in Solomon Islands, East Timor and Bougainville before taking up the post in Tonga.

Meanwhile, a new Police Commissioner for Tonga has yet to be named.

Adventists set up Kiribati health hub to counter lifestyle disease

People in Kiribati now have access to health check-ups and workshops through a new wellness hub run by Seventh-Day Adventists.

The Adventist Review reports that the Tarawa Wellness Hub, on the main island of South Tarawa, is supported by the 10,000 Toes campaign

It's an initiative aimed at fighting diabetes to save lives and limbs before they are negatively impacted by the disease.

According to 2019 health data, 81 percent of Kiribati's population is obese, with 36 percent not meeting the World Health Organisation's recommended physical activity guidelines.

In 2019, 96 people had limbs amputated due to diabetes.

Thirty screening kits have been sent to Kiribati as a result of donations to the campaign.

Vanuatu leaders to answer to court over lack of annual returns

88 leaders in Vanuatu will have to answer to the court after failing to submit their annual returns to the office of the Ombudsman on time.

The Ombudsman, Hamlison Bulu, said all leaders in Vanuatu made a promise to uphold the law, and that leaders who didn't submit their annual returns would be dealt with according to the law.

Names of leaders who submitted their annual returns before the deadline, and those who failed to do so, have been published in the official Gazette.

Three MPs are among the 88 leaders who have not submitted their annual returns.