25 Jan 2021

In brief: News from around the Pacific 25 January

5:08 pm on 25 January 2021

French Polynesia rolling out Covid-19 vaccine, ni-Vanuatu students remain stranded in Israel, SLN woes in New Caledonia unresolved and more.

Empty vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 disease vaccine are displayed at the regional corona vaccination centre in Ludwigsburg, southern Germany, on January 22, 2021.

Photo: AFP

French Polynesia rolls out vaccine programme

More than 1,000 French Polynesians have received the first shot of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in the first week of the inoculation campaign.

The French territory recorded the region's highest incidence of infection, with almost 18,000 cases in the past six months.

128 people have died and 26 sufferers are still in hospital, including 11 in intensive care.

All but 62 of the Covid-19 cases were detected after the borders were reopened in July and mandatory quarantine requirements were abolished in an effort to boost tourism and reignite the economy.

Ni-Vanuatu students remain stranded in Israel

Seven ni-Vanuatu students studying in Israel have waited more than six months to return home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported the students had completed a year of study and were anxious to return to their families but remain stranded due to border closures.

Israel's Ambassador to the Pacific, Tibor Shalev-Schlosser, said the latest effort saw the students spend five hours at an airport in Israel while Customs and Immigration Officials tried without success to negotiate a way for them to fly home via Auckland.

However Shalev-Schlosser said the students were being taken care of and he is hopeful they will get home soon.

Air Vanuatu looks for missing engine

The Chief Executive Officer of Air Vanuatu says an ATR engine ordered from Singapore is "missing".

Atu Finau's office did not have any record to show that it has arrived from Singapore where it was ordered.

Finau told the Vanuatu Daily Post while working on the company's Covid Recovery Plan his team was looking closely at its finances.

He says that was how the discovery was made that the engine has been missing since 2015.

Finau said they were still tracing its supposed route to find out what happened to the engine since Air Vanuatu has paid for it.

New Caledonia's SLN says still chance of insolvency

New Caledonia's loss-making SLN nickel company says the risk of insolvency remains.

SLN is the territory's biggest private sector employer with more than 2000 people on its payroll while thousands more jobs depend on its mines and plant.

However, for weeks its operations have been disrupted and its management has reiterated that its loans are just about exhausted.

SLN's crisis comes amid heightened tension over the sale of the Brazilian-owned Vale nickel plant, which is expected to be concluded within two weeks.

SLN 's management has been in talks with creditors, while hoping its restructure can return it to profitability.

Vanuatu PM donates to SDA

Vanuatu's Prime Minister, Bob Loughman, has donated over $US4600 to the local Seventh-Day Adventist Mission.

In making the donation, Loughman thanked the church for its historical contributions to the country's Education and Health Sectors with its schools and hospitals.

The Vanuatu Daily Post reported the Prime Minister as having made the donation while closing the church's 24th session, which looked at appointing its new Heads in its organisaton this week.

The Prime Minister said he believed the most effective way towards dealing with rising criminal activities in the country was to partner with churches.