13 Jul 2021

Pacific Briefs for Tuesday July 13

11:23 am on 13 July 2021

Last Covid-19 patient leaves Tahiti hospital

For the first time in 11 months, there is no patient with Covid-19 in French Polynesia's hospital.

Covid-19 re-emerged in the community last August when the border was reopened for quarantine-free travel to boost tourism.

However, a rise in Covid-19 cases in Europe prompted Paris to close the border again in February for a three-month period.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 1,200 people have needed hospital care and 142 patients died.

More than 19,000 people caught Covid-19.

An ambulance enters the Taaone hospital in Papeete, the French overseas territory of Polynesia. (2014)

Photo: AFP

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.

Currently, there are 15 cases of the Delta variant in isolation.

Strike hits domestic airline in New Caledonia

Several flights in New Caledonia have been cancelled because of a strike at the domestic airline.

Air Caledonie dropped five flights from Noumea to outer island destinations this morning because of a stoppage by some unionised staff.

The carrier said there had been a breakdown in the dialogue within the company.

Air Caledonie

Air Caledonie Photo: supplied FB

The airline said it will transfer passengers to the next available flights

The disruption prompted the assembly of the Loyalty Islands province to defer the sitting planned for today.

PNG census again deferred

Papua New Guinea has postponed its census for three years to 2024.

The National Population & Housing Census was to have begun this month after a three-year period of preparation and previous deferrals.

The National Statistics Office has issued a notification, blaming the latest deferral on the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nowa School with educator Jean Valu Vava

PNG school children Photo: Days for Girls Meris Malo PNG

The office says the government's response to PNG's recent surge in Covid cases means the quality of the census would likely be undermined.

PNG's last census was in 2011, which the government in power at the time later admitted was a failure and inaccurate.

Based on the 2011 census figure of a population of 7.25 million, it is thought that PNG's population could be about nine million by now.

PNG Govt grateful for donor budget support

The Papua New Guinea Government says donor grants and loans have been of great assistance in the delivery of development projects.

NBC reports the Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey has released his Final Budget Outcome report.

It shows cheap leans from development partners totalled $US1.25 billion dollars, with another $US390 million in grants.

This money helped with the national Submarine Fibre Cable Network, extensions of the power grid in the Highlands, the Kagamuga Airport highway reconstruction, and the new Enga Provincial Hospital.

Other projects to benefit from the overseas loans and grants are the Nadzab Airport redevelopment, Ramu power transmission system redevelopment and road maintenance and rehabilitation.

Ling-Stuckkey said the donor projects are a very welcome source of economic activity, especially in rural areas.

New Caledonians urged to get vaccinated

People in New Caledonia are being urged to vaccinate against Covid-19 in order to ease its isolation.

The French territory has prevented any pandemic-related fatality with two strict lockdowns, with the borders still largely closed and air travel restricted.

The government says New Caledonia cannot remain cut off forever and must learn to live with the virus but herd immunity can only be achieved if people are vaccinated.

Although Pfizer vaccines are available, only a third of the population of 180,000 over the age of 12 has been inoculated.

France provides 10,000 doses a week and, according to the government, about 60,000 doses are at disposal.

Reports say a large number of doctors is poised to quit because of the travel restrictions in force since early last year.

The Gaston-Bourret Hospital Center dispenses Covid-19 vaccine injections in Noumea. New Caledonia, Noumea, February 17, 2021

Photo: AFP

New Caledonia eases quarantine terms for children

A court in New Caledonia has ruled that unvaccinated children with negative Covid-19 tests won't have to be in quarantine for two weeks.

The case was brought by a vaccinated mother who was allowed to leave the quarantine facility after seven days.

Children under the age of 12 are not vaccinated.

Under rules brought in two months ago, the two-week compulsory quarantine period was halved for those who had been inoculated.

Last month, a traveller secured a court order for an early release from quarantine on the basis that she had had one Pfizer shot after earlier contracting Covid-19.

New Caledonia had one lockdown last year and one this year to suppress its first community outbreak.

To date there has been no fatal Covid-19 case.

Call for more people to get vaccinated in Solomon Islands

Health authorities in Solomon Islands are urging all citizens aged 16 and above to come forward and get vaccinated against Covid-19.

The country is administering both the AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines but a statement from the health ministry says only four percent of the population have been fully vaccinated so far.

Gladys Habu, a pharmacist and former Miss Solomon Islands, getting her second dose of Covid-19.

Photo: Suuplied/ Solomon Islands Ministry of Health

The ministry is also urging anyone planning to host mass gathering events to submit pre-event assessment forms to the National Health Emergency Operation Centre.

It warns that as long as the country continues to receive incoming travellers there is still a possibility of Covid-19 spreading beyond the government managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

Ruffenach bids for New Caledonia Congress presidency

New Caledonia's anti-independence politician Virginie Ruffenach says she is a candidate for the Congress presidency.

Ms Ruffenach, who is a senior member of the Future with Confidence party in Congress, announced her bid shortly after the Congress last week elected the first pro-independence president Louis Mapou.

The position, which is currently held by the veteran pro-independence leader Roch Wamytan, is up for a renewal by the end of this month.

He was confirmed for a second one-year term last year thanks to the support from the ethnic Wallisian Pacific Awakening Party, which is expected to switch its support to the anti-independence candidate.

New Caledonia Congress

Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Walter Zweifel

Ms Ruffenach told a local radio station that the pro-independence side cannot hold all the power.

The Pacific Awakening Party was part of the collegial government elected in 2019 but the party lost its seat in the 11-member administration in February when the pro-independence ministers jointly resigned, prompting the government's fall.

With 18 out of 54 seats Future with Confidence is the largest party in Congress.