4 Aug 2022

FSM takes action amid surge of covid cases

9:25 am on 4 August 2022

The Federated States of Micronesia is taking action as Covid-19 spreads rapidly in the states of Pohnpei and Kosrae.

However, FSM has has fully opened its borders for international travellers despite the spread.

The nation recorded 306 new Covid-19 infections in the 24-hour reporting period to July 31.

FSM's health department said positive community cases in the states of Pohnpei and Kosrae continue to spread, while Chuuk and Yap remain free from the virus.

The Micronesian nation has recorded a total of 5,281 positive infections since January 2021.

Federated States of Micronesia president David Panuelo at the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in Suva, 11 July 2022.

FSM's outgoing President David Panuelo Photo: RNZ / Kelvin Anthony

There are currently eight people in need of medical care and authorities have confirmed nine deaths.

President David Panuelo has signed a decree on social distancing and other precautionary measures to stop community transmission of the virus.

It came into effect on Monday.

Under the new law people are advised to stay home unless it is essential for them to leave their houses, such as to go to work or to buy food and supplies.

Wearing face masks in public spaces is mandatory.

The decree also requires everyone to observe proper hygiene and to avoid gathering in large crowds if possible.

Panuelo said the country is now facing a crisis as many citizens are getting sick and their livelihoods are being impacted due to Covid-19.

In a televised address on Saturday, Panuelo said the FSM government does not know how Covid entered into the community as its borders were closed for international travellers.

He said the FSM's health and social affairs department was unable to find any potential weaknesses in the quarantine sites across the nation.

Panuelo said given that Covid-19 is already in FSM, the government is unprepared to spend the additional resources on exploring its origins.

"What is most important now that the virus is here is that we work together in keeping our country safe from it. What I ask is that all of us as Micronesians continue to see each other as brothers and sisters and to treat each other with love. We are all in this together."

'It's like wildfire'

The State of Chuuk will allow only limited flights for the next three months to ensure it remains Covid-19 free.

Chuuk State Government and the FSM Government met on Sunday and agreed that there will be only four incoming flights to Chuuk this month.

RNZ Pacific's correspondent in Saipan, Giff Johnson, said Chuuk is doing all it can to prevent the spread of the disease.

"Chuuk is getting some accomodation in all of this in there hope to stay covid free a little long but in terms of Pohnpei and Kosrae. I mean, they've confirmed it's the BA5 variant and it's (spreading) just like wildfire."

Authorities said persons traveling to Chuuk can expect to be subjected to state-mandated quarantine for a period of up to 14 days.

Governor of Chuuk State, Alexander Narruhn, had requested the FSM government to keep its borders closed until November to keep its Covid-free status.

But Panuelo said this request would be unlawful, according to advice from the Justice Department.

"The executive branch implements the law but cannot create the law and I am compelled to follow the law as passed by the FSM Congress," he said.