20 Jul 2021

Pacific News in Brief on Tuesday 20th July

3:32 pm on 20 July 2021

Covid rising again in French Polynesia

The number of Covid-19 infections in French Polynesia has surged again - a week after its hospitals recorded their first day without a Covid-19 patient in almost a year.

Over the weekend, another 42 cases were registered and five people have been admitted to hospital in Tahiti and Moorea.

Over the past week, the number of active cases has risen from 12 to 91, attributed to the spread of the Delta variant.

39 percent of the population has received at least one vaccine dose.

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

More than 19,000 cases have been recorded since and 144 people died.

Six shot by soldiers and police in PNG

Papua New Guinea police and soldiers shot dead six people in two incidents last week.

The National newspaper reports two of the dead were members of the so called Tommy Baker Gang, who had been involved in a shootout in the hills near Dawadawa in Milne Bay.

On Saturday, police and soldiers were believed to have shot dead four men while guarding government properties following a tribal fight near the Lai River in Enga.

The Enga commander Superintendent Ephenes Nili told The National the two clans were supposed to sit down for mediation this week.

The Sikinwan clan leader Robert Minkaso told the paper the clash occurred after the Timale clan attacked and burnt several houses belonging to his clansmen.

France promising scheme to counter illegal fishing in the Pacific

The French President, Emmanuel Macron, says France and Pacific nations aim to counter illegal fishing through the establishment of a South Pacific coastguard network.

Mr Macron gave the undertaking in a virtual meeting with 15 regional leaders, including the prime ministers of Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

He said that to better cope with the predatory logic, he wants to boost maritime cooperation in the Pacific.

Mr Macron said France would launch a network of coastguards for the Pacific around three main objectives: information sharing, operational cooperation and training.

He has repeatedly pushed for the French territories' integration into the region in order to bolster the Indo-Pacific axis aimed at countering the growing influence of China.

The virtual meeting has been dubbed a summit with Pacific leaders, which had been planned to be held in Tahiti last year but had to be abandoned because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

PNG reports three new cases of Covid

Health officials in Papua New Guinea report three new cases of Covid-19 in the latest available figures.

They say there were no deaths and the known death tally remains at 187.

For the past few weeks PNG has not been testing for the virus, so the only information on it comes from people presenting at health facilities.

This file photo taken on February 11, 2021 shows vials of the ABV2856 batch  of the AstraZeneca vaccine at the start of a vaccination campaign at a hub for Covid-19 vaccinations located in Rome's Fiumicino airport long-term parking area.

Photo: AFP

Vaccination rates remain very low.

About 55,000 health and essential workers have been fully vaccinated, while just over 12,000 people with co-morbidities have received both.

Last week it was revealed that the Delta variant had been detected in the captain of a freighter that had berthed in Port Moresby.

Fiji names probable election period

Fiji's government says the next general election can be held between now and January 9th, 2023.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum told Parliament $US11.12 million has been allocated to the Elections Office to prepare for the vote.

He said an additional $US7.9 million is also provided "under the event that the elections are held within the 2021/2022 financial year."

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said $US720,000 would go to the police force to maintain security during the election.

American Samoa receiving extensive US Federal funding

American Samoa's governor, Lemanu Peleti Mauga, says the territory has been promised more than 1.4 billion dollars in US federal relief and stimulus funding to counter the impact of the virus.

In a covid report to lawmakers, the governor said the money is being allocated under three pieces of legislation - the CARES Act, the Consolidated Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan Act.

Much of this money has already been allocated - as relief funds, to help repatriate stranded residents, stimulus checks, payroll protection and loans for small business.

Other federal funding goes to local farmers and the fishing industry.

There will also be money to support the education sector and the territory's hospital.