24 Jun 2021

In brief: News from around the Pacific

11:23 am on 24 June 2021

Almost every Niuean has had jab; Vanuatu's buses to vax centres; sector encoraged to help female workers; Bougainville beheading; and more.

Almost all of Niue now vaccinated

97 percent of Niueans eligible for Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine have received their first dose, three weeks after the island began the process.

Niue Broadcasting reports the Health Minister, Sauni Tongatule, said he was proud of this number and thanked those who helped make it happen.

He also said he "would like to thank the general public for the support and turning up to have their first dose of the vaccine."

Mr Tongatule said it's a figure that any other country will struggle to match.

The population of the island is about 1600 and 97 percent of the eligible population means 1,164 have so far taken part in the vaccination.

The minister said while New Zealand has advised there's provisional approval for the Pfizer vaccine to be given to children of 12 to 15 years, Niue's priority will be completing the second phase of the vaccination programme.

He said they also want to encourage the few people on the island who have not taken the vaccine to reconsider.

Buses provided to boost vaccination programme

The Vanuatu Ministry of Health is now providing free buses to get people to the vaccination centre in Port Vila.

The ministry is appealing to adults to use the buses to go and get their Covid-19 vaccination.

Nurses from Vanuatu's island of Efate and offshore islands during their training for administering the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.

Nurses from Vanuatu's island of Efate and offshore islands during their training for administering the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. Photo: Hilaire Bule

Vanuatu now has about 44,000 doses of vaccines, 24,000 of AstraZeneca through the COVAX facility and 20,000 doses of Sinopharm from China.

So far 7,462 people have received the first dose of AstraZeneca - health and frontline workers, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

Meanwhile, the director of the National Disaster Management Office, Abraham Nasak, says there will be a temporary restriction on passengers travelling into Vanuatu.

This will start on Friday July 9 and go to July 31.

The ban only applies to inbound travel - there are no restrictions on outbound passenger travel, cargo flights and shipments.

Our correspondent understands the temporary restriction is aimed at giving frontline workers a break ahead of the country's independence day celebrations on July 30.

It's also to avoid the risk of covid-19 being spread during mass gatherings.

PNG's covid cases rises again

Papua New Guinea has recorded 28 new cases of Covid-19 cases in the 48 hours to midday Monday.

It takes the national tally to 17,041 with the death toll remaining at 173.

So far PNG, with a population of nearly nine million, has tested 130,467 people for Covid-19.

Job losses at Mariana's casino body

Due to a lack of revenue, the Commonwealth Casino Commission in the Northern Marianas has dismissed 22 employees, which represents 60 percent of its workforce.

Executive director Andrew Yeom announced that due to budget constraints, the commission served 60-day termination notices without cause.

Imperial Pacific International LLC's casino, the lone company the Commission is overseeing, has been shut for over a year now due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It later slapped an indefinite suspension of IPI's gaming licence because of the company's non-payment of US$15.5 million dollars in annual casino exclusive licence fee and US$3.1 million and annual casino regulatory fee.

The regulator also tucked in $6.6 million in total penalties on IPI and ordered the casino developer to pay within six months.

Private sector encoraged to help female workers

The Vanuatu private sector has been told it must play a proactive role in levelling the playing field for women in the workplace.

The International Finance Corporation's Vanuatu country officer, Liz Pechan, said this was needed to ensure women can fully participate in the economy amid the downturn caused by the pandemic.

Ms Pechan said the pandemic continued to disproportionately affect women and had exacerbated the risks they face.

She said women are already burdened by unpaid childcare responsibilities, but the pandemic has led to more domestic and workplace violence, so increasing absenteeism and cutting productivity.

"Businesses can attract, retain and promote the best person for the job by supporting their employees with childcare responsibilities, building respectful workplaces for all genders and supporting employees' mental health and well-being," she said.

Man found beheaded

A man accused of causing the death of another man by using sorcery was found beheaded in north Bougainville last week.

The National newspaper reports the deaths prompted the torching of houses in the area.

The Bougainville deputy police commissioner, Francis Tokura, says officers are trying to stabilise the situation.

Another sorcery related killing in south Bougainville has police resources there stretched.

Earlier this month Human Rights Watch said police in Papua New Guinea need to be properly resourced so they can step in and make arrests when suspected killers hide behind a the spurious defence of sorcery.

President Ishmael Toroama has also spoken out about the spate of violent acts and the general deterioration of law and order in Bougainville.

Speaking before these latest crimes, he said he condemns "the recent senseless acts of murder, arson related to sorcery and payback killings that have happened."

Help sought to find driver

The Samoa police are seeking public help to locate a man involved in a fatal hit and run accident on Monday.

Tu'u'au Maletino died at Motootua hospital soon after he was hit in Vaitele.

Police have used social media to ask the public to help locate the vehicle and the driver.