24 Nov 2021

In brief: news from around the Pacific

6:35 pm on 24 November 2021

Shipping delays to Samoa are reportedly leading to price hikes, there have been eight new cases of Covid-19 recorded in Fiji and record case numbers recorded in the NMI, and more.

Major vaccination milestone in New Zealand

Pasifika in New Zealand have reached a major vaccination milestone, with 90 percent of Pacific communities having had at least the first Covid-19 vaccination.

The Minister for Pacific Peoples and Associate Minister of Health Aupito William Sio said the milestone reflects the hard work and dedication of Pacific Health Providers and other community leaders.

Targeted initiatives have included pop-up vaccination events, community outreach, a special 0800 vaccine booking number staffed by Pacific language speakers, and vaccination buses.

Aupito encouraged everyone in Aotearoa who had already had their first dose to book their second dose if they had not already.

Apia's town clock.

Apia, Samoa. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Jenny Meyer

Reports of price hikes due to shortages in Samoa

Scarce products have reportedly been hiked up in price in Samoa because of shortages due to shipping delays because of effects of the pandemic.

The Samoa Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour is investigating the claims.

Two major wholesalers, Chan Mow and Frankies, both reported a shortage of rice, but another wholesaler Ah Liki recently had a shipment of rice arrive, and had supplied retailers.

Samoa Observer reported that some shops with rice available had been accused of jacking up their prices in response to the shortage.

Commerce, Industry and Labour chief executive Pulotu Lyndon Chu Ling said the ministry was investigating reports of price increases across the retail sector.

However, he said there was no law forbidding prices from being raised in response to a shortage of goods.

Pulotu said companies were encouraged not to raise prices, and a public notice had been published to warn against price hikes.

Inspections are being carried out this week by the ministry's staff across the country's retail sector.

NZ pledges $40 million to Fiji

The New Zealand government has pledged an additional $40 million in budget support to the Fijian government.

The move was confirmed during a meeting between Fijian attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and NZ high commissioner to Fiji Jonathan Curr.

In a statement, the Fijian government said it reaffirmed New Zealand's confidence in "Fiji's ability to effectively manage its economic response and recovery from the pandemic".

-Pacific News Agency

Kiribati parliament elects first deputy speaker

Ioteba Redfern was elected deputy speaker of the Kiribati parliament on Tuesday.

A statement from Parliament House said the Betio MP was nominated from the ruling Tobwaan Kiribati Party and was uncontested.

He was sworn-in by house speaker Tangariki Reete.

President Taneti Maamau said the deputy speaker would help preside over parliament sessions.

- Pacific News Agency

Covid-19 in Fiji: 8 new cases confirmed

Fiji has reported eight new cases of Covid-19, bringing the total number of active cases to 318.

There are no new deaths to report, but 13 people are in hospital in serious condition.

Fiji's government confirmed on Monday that 598 Covid-19 patients had now died from serious medical conditions that they had before they contracted the virus.

Fiji's Health Secretary Dr James Fong said these deaths were not caused by Covid-19.

Just over 90 percent of adults in Fiji are fully vaccinated, as well as nearly 35,000 children and teens between 12 and 17 years old.

Fiji has had a total of 52,468 cases since March 2020, and 52,398 of these were from the Delta outbreak that began in April this year.

The death toll is 695; two deaths were reported before April, and the rest after the new outbreak began.

Record Covid-19 cases in Northern Marianas Islands

The Northern Marianas Islands have recorded 98 new cases of Covid-19 - the largest number for one day, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation and Covid-19 Task Force said.

Ten new cases were reported on Monday.

Epidemiologist Stephanie Kern-Allely said that of the 98 new cases, 82 were picked up through community-based testing which is used by employers and community groups.

All of them can be linked to other cases.

Kern-Allely said with Thanksgiving on 25 November, there would be lots of community and family gatherings will be taking place, so it was important to remember that vaccination is the best prevention and protection against the virus.

Close up of fingers holding express antigen covid test, negative result

A rapid antigen testing kit for Covid-19. (File photo). Photo: 123RF

PNG wants Covid-19 rapid testing kits controlled

Papua New Guinea's deputy head of the pandemic response Dr Daoni Esorom says all imported Covid-19 rapid testing kits must be validated by the National Control Centre.

Dr Daoni said too many organisations and private companies have brought in rapid testing kits that had not been validated, and these have the potential to disrupt the national testing protocols.

Organisations must meet specific requirements before they are approved to use the kits.

Dr Daoni urged any organisation that wants to bring the kits to PNG to contact the National Control Centre's laboratory so they can be approved for local use.

Covid-19 vaccine compulsory for World Cup soccer qualifiers

PNG men's footballers who refuse to get the Covid-19 vaccine will not be considered for next year's World Cup Oceania qualifiers in Qatar, the national football association says.

Association general secretary Pius Letenge said the vaccination was a requirement for players and officials participating in Fifa-sanctioned events.

He said it was a requirement of the sport's world governing body Fifa and the Oceania Football Confederation.

The association was finalising contracts for players who would make the final squad.

The PNG Football Association said it was keen to give national men's squad members ample game time leading up to next year's World Cup Oceania qualifiers in Qatar.

Letenge said a series of selection trials for the national men's team would be played before the final squad was selected for the Doha qualifiers.

-Pacific News Agency

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs