15 Dec 2022

Tokelauans urged to remain vigilant to retain covid-free status

12:22 pm on 15 December 2022
A vaccination centre on Nukunonu, August 2021

A vaccination centre on Nukunonu, August 2021 Photo: Government of Tokelau

Health officials say there's no room for complacency in Tokelau even though the country has so far escaped the Covid-19 pandemic.

A spokesperson for the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Tokelau was the only Pacific territory to not have any recorded cases.

Most of the Pacific has experienced community transmission of the virus but have since opened their borders.

The Samoa-based WHO Spokesperson for Tokelau, Dr Kim Eva Dickson, said the Government of Tokelau has taken measures to prepare for Covid-19, including a strong vaccination campaign, comprehensive testing, and border controls.

Around 93 percent of eligible Tokelauans aged five years and over have been fully vaccinated.

All healthcare workers, elderly and vulnerable people have been fully vaccinated and had their first booster doses.

Tokelau's borders remain closed.

Dr Dickson said this approach is commendable giving the country time to complete a strong vaccination campaign.

There are two doctors on two of the three atolls and nearly 40 health care workers in total across Tokelau.

The WHO Country Office based in Samoa supports Samoa, American Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau.

It has helped with Tokelau's Covid-19 preparedness measures, alongside the support provided by New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), Dr Dickson said.

WHO has bolstered laboratory capacity, including for covid-19 testing, and delivered vaccines and medical equipment to manage covid-19, such as ventilators.

Don't become complacent

"We continue to urge Tokelau and all Pacific island countries and areas to remain vigilant, ramp-up surveillance, and be prepared to respond quickly at any indication of a potential outbreak," Dr Dickson said.

"This is in light of increased travel as borders have opened globally, the continued circulation of SARS-CoV-2, along with the seasonal flu, emerging new variants of Omicron and variants of concern, and decreased covid-19 testing globally.

"This mix can quickly contribute to a new wave of infections that can quickly overrun the health sector and its ability to provide care."

RNZ has reached out to Tokelau government officials for an update on the country's covid-19 free status.