7 Jul 2021

In brief: news from around the Pacific

8:33 pm on 7 July 2021

PNG scales down Covid-19 testing; Samoa covid vaccination rollout on hold; Tonga renews its coronavirus state of emergency; Vanuatu vaccination rollout underway in North Efate; 2023 Pacific Games start date deferred

A health worker takes a swab from a man at a Covid-19 testing centre in Port Moresby. Rates of testing in PNG are incredibly low.

Photo: AFP

PNG scales down Covid-19 testing

Papua New Guinea's National Control Centre has decided to "scale down" testing for Covid-19 and focus on rolling out the vaccination programme.

PNG has reported over 17,000 confirmed cases of the virus since the pandemic began a year and a half ago. Only around 132,000 tests have been conducted.

The Controller of the National Pandemic Response, Police Commissioner David Manning said testing would continue but mainly at health facility settings.

He said Covid-19 is already in the country, thus it is better to continue to implement containment strategies and bolster efforts with the available vaccines.

Manning said the arrival of vaccines in PNG - citing AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, and soon the Johnson & Johnson vaccines - allow the response team to transition its focus.

He said that a very real concern for PNG was the new variants of Covid-19 that exist in the region that are were highly contagious and deadly.

Samoa Covid-19 vaccination rollout on hold

Samoa's Ministry of Health has circulated a notice telling people that the mass vaccination rollout has been "temporarily stopped" as they await more supplies.

The Samoa Overserver reports people who turned up to receive their second doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine (on Monday) were turned away

The news site says the Ministry notice explains that Samoa is likely falling down the priority list for vaccination distributions as the focus shifts to countries who are battling outbreaks at the moment.

The Ministry called for patience saying the there is no harm in delaying the second shot as as the interval between the first and second shot can be up to 12 weeks.

Tonga renews Covid-19 state of emergency

Tonga's state of emergency to keep Covid-19 out of the country has been renewed for another month.

The SOE has now been in place since March 2020.

While there is no Covid-19 in Tonga limits on the population continue to apply, including a midnight to 5:00am curfew.

Limits on mass gatherings also still apply.

They are a maximum of 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors, except for religious services and schools.

Vanuatu vaccination rollout underway in North Efate

Over 700 people from north Efate in Vanuatu have now been vaccinated against coronavirus.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reports that health teams have been working on awareness ahead of vaccinations.

Several chiefs were amongst the first 23 recipients on the launch day.

Awareness work is now underway in the outer islands.

2023 Pacific Games start date deferred

Solomon Islands has announced that the 2023 Pacific Games is being deferred by four months.

The dates for the Games have been moved from their original slot of mid to late July 2023, to the two weeks from November 16th to December 2nd 2023.

The Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare says that in March, the Solomons Pacific Games Association submitted a paper to cabinet for their support to defer the 17th Games.

"The reason for their request is simply that delays forced upon us as the host nation by the Covid-19 pandemic had undermined our ability to complete the construction of all the facilities we require to successfully host the games," he said.

Sogavare says the executive board of the Pacific Games council considered and approved the request for a deferral, in consultation with all 24 nations involved.