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In brief: News from around the Pacific

Monday 4 October 2021 | Written by RNZ | Published in Pacific Islands, Regional

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In brief: News from around the Pacific
Solomon Islands Police Commissioner Mostyn Mangau had been acting in the role since the departure of his predecessor Matthew Varley in November 2019. Photo: Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Two men missing at sea in Solomon Islands have landed in PNG; Cook Islands govt wants to vaccinate target youth population before opening borders to NZ; Vanuatu health director flags mandatory vaccination; Forum keen to host Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones in the Pacific

The Solomon Islands police say two men who have missing at sea since early September have ended up in Papua New Guinea.

Solomon Islands Police Commissioner Mostyn Mangau said the pair landed at Cape Maso, West New Britain on October 3, after drifting at sea for 29 days.

Commissioner Mangau said the two left the Shortlands Island group on a boat heading to Noro Island on the 3rd of September but the boat never arrived at Noro.

A search and rescue operation for the pair was carried out on September 7.

Commissioner Mangau said both are safe and well and undergoing medical checks.

He said his team is working closely with our counterparts in PNG to repatriate the men back to Solomon Islands.

Cook Islands govt wants to vaccinate target youth population before opening borders to NZ

The Cook Islands Secretary of Health wants to vaccinate the majority of its youth before opening its borders to New Zealand.

Since the border closure and suspension of the quarantine free travel bubble with New Zealand in August, the Cook Island government have been coming up with options about how to best protect its people but to also support the economy.

From October 8th Covid-19 vaccinations - donated by New Zealand will be provided to 12 to 15-year-olds.

One thousand one-hundred-twenty-eight young people are eligible in Rarotonga.


Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Cook Islands Secretary of Health Bob Williams said the goal is to reach at least 90-percent of 12 to 15-year-olds.

Despite more than 97-percent of the eligible population being fully vaccinated - the government said vaccines are only one form of mitigation.

Bob Williams said maintaining an elimination strategy may not be feasible in the near future and it's considering learning to live with Covid-19, once its 12-15 age group are fully vaccinated.

He said they're relying on New Zealand's modelling to form policy around what Cabinet will decide to do in the coming weeks.

Vanuatu health director flags mandatory vaccination

Vanuatu's Director of Public Health has flagged that vaccination against Covid-19 will be compulsory soon for certain workers.

The Daily Post reports Len Tarivonda saying that this is now provided for in law after an amendment to the Public Health Act.


Ralph Regenvanu after getting Covid-19 vaccine Photo: RNZ Pacific/Hilaire Bule

He said under this law the Health Minister can make an emergency declaration of an order to make vaccination mandatory.

Mr Tarivonda said vaccination will be made mandatory for specific groups of workers, those who earn a living by working in government or private companies.

He said employers have a duty of care for their workers, and that vaccination is "a common good".

Forum keen to host Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones in the Pacific

The Pacific is keen to host a meeting of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones in the Pacific next year.

To address current threats, he said Pacific nations want to work more with OPANAL, an international organisation promoting a non-aggression pact and nuclear disarmament in the Americas.


Former Cook Islands Prime Minister, Henry Puna, was elected Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum in 2021. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Mr Puna said despite 36 years of the Treaty of Rarotonga, and 25 years since the permanent cessation of nuclear testing in the Pacific region, the nuclear threat remains.

He said the institution of nuclear free zones remains a critical pillar for the region's global efforts.

NZ universities should offer specific scholarships for Pasifika school leavers who are also essential workers

A Pasifika school leaver who is also an essential worker says she'd like to see New Zealand universities offering specific scholarships to people in her shoes.

She said 30 other students at her school are in the same position.

"Offering scholarships to school leavers essential workers because scholarships are a really long process. I'm trying to find the time to apply for some as well but by the time I go to apply, there wasn't really that time to apply for scholarships."

She said if universities could reduce the barriers in applying for scholarships, it would address inequality.


Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller