21 Jun 2021

In brief: News from around the Pacific

5:23 pm on 21 June 2021
The Gaston-Bourret Hospital Center dispenses Covid-19 vaccine injections in Noumea. New Caledonia, Noumea, February 17, 2021

Photo: AFP

Curfew lifted in Tahiti as pandemic eases

France is tonight lifting the night-time curfew it imposed in Tahiti more than eight months ago to help curb the spread of Covid-19.

Daily infection numbers have plummeted to single digits after peaking in November when French Polynesia had the fastest propagation rate of the pandemic outside Europe.

In the second wave, almost 19,000 people contracted the virus and 142 died.

Gatherings continue to be restricted to a maximum of 25 people.

Masks have to be worn by people aged 11 and older in enclosed places or places where distancing cannot be ensured.

This applies to offices, shops, markets, public transport as well as to ceremonies, such as funerals.

Tahiti Hawaii air link to reopen in August

Flights between French Polynesia and Hawaii are scheduled to resume on August 7th after more than a year's interruption because of Covid-19.

The arrangement for Hawaiian Air to resume its Tahiti service was discussed in video talks between the French Polynesian president Edouard Fritch and the Hawaii governor David Ige.

The two sides have approved their pre-flight testing regimes to allow for quarantine-free travel, which was restarted between French Polynesia and California last month.

Paris had closed the border in February, alarmed at the rapid spread of Covid-19 in Europe but it eased the restriction at the behest of the French Polynesian government.

Reports say a large number of travellers on Hawaiian are from the mainland and transfer in Honolulu.

New Caledonia records Covid-19 case in quarantine facility

Another person has tested positive for Covid-19 in New Caledonia's managed border quarantine facility.

It's the 129th case recorded since the start of the pandemic last March.

Until last week, arriving passengers had to be quarantined for two weeks, but a woman secured a court order for an early departure, given that she had had a Pfizer vaccination after an earlier Covid infection.

In New Caledonia, just over 20 percent of the population has been inoculated while tight border controls continue.

About 40 doctors are reported to be preparing to move back to France because they dislike the travel restrictions.

Their planned exodus is feared to disrupt services at the main hospital.

Survey in American Samoa reveals one in three students consider suicide

One in three students of the 14-19 age group in American Samoa say they have considered ending their own lives.

This is from a survey conducted last year by non-profit organisation, EPIC, or Empowering Pacific Island Communities.

There were 1125 respondents from Fa'asao Marist, Tafuna and Samoana High Schools.

EPIC executive director, Toleafoa Katie McCutchan, told the Mental Health Summit last week that during the screening students were asked how often they had these suicidal thoughts.

"And how long do they last. One to three hours, four to eight hours, all day, all week. So we were very in-depth with our interviews and our children. 39 percent were male 44 percent were female. 212 of these kids were flagged as high risk of committing suicide."

Toleafoa Katie McCutchan said those who said they had had suicidal thoughts were given further depression screening.

Some were flagged for clinical treatment at the Department of Health.

Schools in Wallis and Futuna reopen

Primary schools in Wallis and Futuna are reopening today after a Covid-19 community outbreak forced their closure in early March.

Senior high school students already returned to their classrooms in mid-May as the pandemic waned and the lockdown eased.

More than 400 people contracted the virus, which claimed seven lives, but since late April there has been no new infection reported.

Herd immunity is unlikely to be attained as almost half the population has opted against getting vaccinated, which means that unused doses will be returned.

Bougainville's President condemns surge in lawlessness

The President of Bougainville, Ishmael Toroama, has condemned what he says is an alarming surge in lawlessness.

His government is promising sterner measures to deal with law breakers in the Papua New Guinea province.

Mr Toroama said he condemns recent senseless murders and arson related to sorcery and payback killings.

He said these crimes can not be justified with due cause; and that no crime is above the law.

The president is urging Bougainvilleans to respect the law and refrain from resorting to what he calls their baser instincts..

He said as Bougainville prepares for independence the rule of law must prevail and people are be tried before the courts through the proper legal process.

Mr Toroama says the recent violence may threaten the very foundations of Bougainville's commitment to peace and unity, but his government will not be deterred by it.

CNMI's Governor cancels curfew hours and ends reduced business hours.

With the Northern Marianas now at Community Vulnerability Level Green, the Governor Ralph Torres cancelled curfew hours and terminated reduced business hours.

The curfew was from 2am to 4am businesses also had reduce hours.

Both measures were implemented since September.

Governor Torres said he lifted the restriction because the CNMI now has a vaccination rate of 60 percent and had no recently reported cases of community transmission.

He added that it's through the collaboration and support of everyone that the CNMI has been able to successfully move to Community Vulnerability Level Green and lift restrictions as more and more people get vaccinated.