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Pacific tightens borders against coronavirus

Health staff screen airline passengers at Majuro  Marshall Islands (Hilary Hosia  RNZ Pacific)
Health staff screen airline passengers at Majuro Marshall Islands (Hilary Hosia RNZ Pacific)

NEWS DESK
| RNZ Pacific | Asia Pacific Report | Pacific Media Watch

WELLINGTON, NZ - Pacific countries have further tightened border measures to try to keep the coronavirus from gaining a foothold in the islands.

Six cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the Pacific so far – the first three in French Polynesia and, on Sunday night, three were confirmed in Guam.

Health officials have made no secret of their fears about the rapidly spreading virus, and what it could do in isolated countries with limited health resources. Many have pointed to the devastation wrought by the measles in Samoa last year.

In Samoa, the government further tightened travel restrictions to keep out the coronavirus over the weekend.

Travellers from 33 countries – including Australia, but not New Zealand – are now required to spend at least two weeks in self-quarantine and provide coronavirus test results no more than five days old.

Anyone entering from any country – including returning residents – must show proof of having had a medical check within three days of arrival.

In French Polynesia, all cruise ships have been banned and work permits suspended. Anyone entering must now also show medical certificates.

The Cooks Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Tonga have also banned cruise ships.

This weekend, Tonga also declared a public health emergency, giving powers to authorities to ban mass gatherings and other events, including shutting kava bars.

Fiji’s government has banned cruise ships and international events, while foreigners will be banned from all local events.

In an address to the nation last night, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said all measures were being taken to reduce the spread of Covid-19 when it arrives in Fiji.

He said isolation units had been prepared in each of the country’s divisions.

Bainimarama said all government ministers and officials would be barred from overseas travel.

“Cruise ships will be banned from berthing anywhere in Fiji. Also from Monday, international events are not be allowed in Fiji, and local events will be closed to all guests coming in from overseas.

“We also highly discourage all Fijians from travelling overseas.”

Bainimarama said the government would present a supplementary budget on 26 March to help the economy weather the coronavirus pandemic.

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