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In brief: News from around the Pacific

Thursday 7 October 2021 | Written by RNZ | Published in Pacific Islands, Regional


In brief: News from around the Pacific
A vaccination center against the Covid-19 is set up at the Magenta Tower in the north east of the capital, Noumea. Photo: Clotilde Richalet / Hans Lucas

Halt the vaccines call; anaesthetic investigation after deaths; and Apia market plan ditched

New Caledonia chief demands halt to vaccines

A high chief in New Caledonia has come out against compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations and demanded a halt to inoculations in his district.

Henri Dokucas Naisseline said the vaccination obligation deprives people of fundamental rights of freedom and respect for human dignity.

The high chief of the Gaumha district on the island of Mare has decided to stop the vaccination drive in all the tribes under his control, suggesting the vaccine is dangerous.

However, he said those who wish to get the vaccine can still get it.

In August, the government launched an inoculation campaign in the mainly Kanak Loyalty Islands, called Vacci'tribs, in the hope of vaccinating 80 percent of the population by January.

A month ago, New Caledonia's Congress unanimously voted to make vaccinations against Covid-19 mandatory, fearing the importation of the Delta variant.

Three days later, it was detected in the community and within a month, more than 8,000 people were infected of whom more than 150 died.

Probe into anaesthetic after deaths

Health officials in Papua New Guinea are continuing to investigate an allegedly faulty batch of the anaesthetic, propofol, which may have been responsible for four deaths.

In addition seven hospital patients are believed to have suffered serious adverse effects from the anaesthetic.

The potentially faulty propofol was revealed by the Health Secretary, Dr Osborne Liko, in August and investigations have been underway since.

A high level independent investigation was sanctioned in September by the Health Minister, Jelta Wong, and is now in its second week.

The National newspaper reports there is no indication when the investigation will be complete.

Symposium on Tonga's drug problem

The Tonga Government has brought together groups from across the country to work out how to tackle the drug crisis.

Tonga has a serious and growing issue with drug importation, manufacture and use and King Tupou VI, on the closing of parliament, admonished MPs for their lack of effort to control the problem.

RNZ Pacific correspondent in Tonga, Kalafi Moala, says the government brought different parts of the community together for a symposium to see what can be done.

"We're hoping that things will come together to reduce, for example the supply of drugs coming in, try and create rehabilitation for the addicts and the harm that is caused, and trying to create a pathway for youth in the future in having education on the problem. So these are some of the things being discussed."

Partly built market in Apia ditched

Samoa's new market which has been under construction in Sogi in Apia has been scrapped.

Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa said Cabinet has finalised the decision to return the market to its original site at Savalalo which her government feels is the best location and closer to the bus depot.

She said her government is in discussion with the New Zealand government to help to rebuild the market at Savalalo and it will assess what to do with the Sogi site.

Fiame said the project has already cost more than 2 million tala since construction started last year under the former Human Rights Protection Party government.

Their decision to build at Sogi displaced many families and relocated them further inland.

At least one family has held out against moving and they remain there despite multiple court orders for them to move.

Home quarantine available in American Samoa

American Samoa's Health Department has established a directive that will allow a traveller who tests positive for Covid-19 to home quarantine, with family members.

The territory's lead epidemiologist, Aifili John Tufa says if a traveller tests positive, the quarantine period is extended from ten to 14-days and the person is removed from quarantine to isolation at a government facility.

All other travellers, who do not test positive, are quarantined at two hotels. the Tradewinds Hotel and Sadies by the Sea hotel.

"However, if there is ever a time where we need to take the quarantine at a home, we do have a process in place," he said.

Dr Aifili explained that those who are placed in home quarantine will need to sign a Home Quarantine directive - which "is a legal form, informing them that they have to stay home and not go any where. They cannot come into contact with any visitors from outside. But if family members agree to all quarantine together for this time period, that will be fine."

Quarantining positive travellers will also be required to check in on the government's TalofaPass system - the online system used to register and screen all travellers to the territory - from the home quarantined.

Check in twice a day is mandatory.

Tahiti to put restrictions on cruise ships

French Polynesia is to restrict the size of cruise ships allowed into the territory's lagoons.

From next year, ships carrying more than 3,500 won't be allowed to dock as the government intends to promote smaller locally based vessels.

It wants to promote cruise ships with up to 700 travellers as part of a policy realignment to make the sector more sustainable.

The plan is to produce maximum benefits to concerned islands as well a service providers linked to the cruise ship industry.

Bora Bora had already restricted access to a maximum of 1,200 passengers a day in order to preserve its lagoon for which it is known.

Trans-Pacific cruise ships with up to 3,500 passengers will be allowed to stop in Tahiti, Moorea and Raiatea.

In 2019, Ovation of the Seas, which can accommodate 6,000 travellers, docked in French Polynesia amid concern that it too large for the port facilities.