2 Nov 2021

In brief: News from around the Pacific

3:23 pm on 2 November 2021

A French Polynesian woman has won a massive European lottery, two men have pleaded guilty to scamming seasonal workers, and more.

Distance markers to various countries are seen past the main town hall on Hiva Oa, the second largest island of the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia

A collection of distance markers, on the French Polynesian island of Hiva Oa. Photo: AFP

Massive lottery win in French Polynesia

A woman in French Polynesia has won a record $US254 million in the EuroMillions lottery.

The woman has chosen to remain anonymous, and was given the cheque by representatives of France's lottery games operator FDJ after they arrived from Paris.

The organisation said it was her first time playing, but she had told her grandfather if she did ever play she would win something.

According to media reports, she wants to travel with her family, experience snow for the first time, and might even buy a place on every continent.

She plans to continue working, might open a business and will give money to children in need.

The amount won by the woman equals the amount French Polynesia received from France to help with Covid-19, and is larger than the annual budget of some of the smaller countries in the Pacific.

Guilty pleas over seasonal worker scheme scam

Two men have pleaded guilty to falsely recruiting seasonal workers for overseas programmes.

Joseph Lafaele and Viliamu Leavasa Faaleleiga appeared before Justice Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma in the Supreme Court of Samoa jointly charged with 13 criminal counts of obtaining by deception.

The men claimed to be seasonal worker agents for the Samoa Government and asked for payments of 300 tala (NZ$162) from people wanting to take part.

Lafaele and Faaleleiga were arrested two weeks ago after people who signed up for their scheme turned up at Faleolo international airport to catch a non-existent flight.

Both men have long histories of false pretences, forgery, burglary and theft.

They will be sentenced at the end of the month.

Ongoing reports of attacks on vaccination teams in PNG

Attacks on Covid-19 vaccination teams in Papua New Guinea have continued.

According to national health authorities only about 3 percent of the population has been vaccinated.

Vaccination is not mandatory, but there have been protests against increasing rules requiring people to be vaccinated for access to public facilities or to get private sector jobs.

Mt Hagen Hospital Covid-19 clinical lead John Junior McKup said the protests were scaring people away from getting vaccinated.

He said vaccination teams were often being attacked by mobs driven by misinformation, which was further hampering the public health effort to curb the spread of the virus.

Move toward inter-governmental legal body for tackling climate change issues

Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano has signed a deal with two Caribbean countries over legal resources for tackling climate change issues.

An agreement was signed by Natano and his counterparts from Antigua and Barbuda in Edinburgh, and would support litigation before international courts.

Jamaican news outlet The Gleaner reported the countries are establishing a Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law.

The body is intended to promote fair and just environmental norms and practices globally.

It would be authorised to request opinions from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea on the legal responsibility of states for carbon emissions, marine pollution, and rising sea levels.

Membership in the commission is open to all small island states.

Reappearance of Covid-19 in CNMI not unexpected

A health official has said it was not a surprise to discover a cluster of Covid-19 in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands.

On Thursday three CNMI students tested positive for the virus, ending a 217-day streak with no community transmission detected.

Since then 25 more people have tested positive, bringing the Commonwealth's total since the beginning of the pandemic to 318 cases. The 27 local transmissions in four days represents an all-time high for the US territory.

Of the 28 new cases, 19 were identified from contact tracing, seven from community testing, and one from travel testing.

Commonwealth Healthcare said 24 people out of 27 of them had reported experiencing Covid-19 symptoms; 89 percent.

The health organisation's chief executive Esther L Muña said their Covid-19 protocols are working, and the risk of spread will always exist.

"We knew there was that possibility of getting a case of community spread here in the CNMI, so this is not a big surprise ... but it is not a surprise that it will require everything to stop it," she said in a weekend radio news briefing.

Governor Ralph DLG Torres has justified his decision to order a 10 day shutdown of all public and private schools in CNMI, including tertiary institutes and daycares.

He said banning face-to-face learning was the right thing to do, considering contact tracing was still underway.

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