By Elena Pasilio on Tokelau
With Covid 19 restrictions relaxed, Tokelau which remains Covid-19 free, has opened its borders to allow essential workers to return to the atolls.
The general manager of the Apia based Office of Tokelau Aukusitino Vitale said that they have been planning the repatriation process for returning Tokelauans, who will arrive via passenger boat. The last repatriation was in early 2021.
"We're comfortable with how this is progressing," he said.
The first passengers to arrive were a nurse and a telecommunications contractor. In preparation for their arrival Alapati Tavite, Tokelau Deputy Director of Health, carried out a vital safety briefing:
"We sat down with the workers and talked, just reminding the workers of the safety measures as usual, but we have had time to get used to this new working system so I'm confident everyone knows what to do," Tavite said.
This arrival comes six months after the last passenger boat, in March of this year.
The interval has given Tokelau time to plan and implement a new system, to safely manage the repatriation of workers. Passengers and stevedores will stay in managed isolation houses and receive frequent Covid 19 testing from health workers.
"Although most countries in the world have moved into stages where they are able to open their borders without the restrictions they used to have," Vitale said.
He said Tokelau is different because of our remote location and that we do not have the hospital capacity and health resources needed if we were to have a Covid 19 outbreak here."
Police officers have been stationed next to the managed isolation houses, in order to monitor visitors during the isolation period.
A number of Tokelauans are currently in Samoa, awaiting repatriation as space on passenger boats to the atolls becomes available.
Vitale explains the priority given to essential workers: "We have opened to essential workers first because we need our hospital staff back who have been in Samoa for months-having taken sick patients.
We currently don't have a doctor in any of the three atolls and so having the nurses back is a priority before we open to repatriate our other passengers," Vitale said.