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Monday 21 February 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Pacific Islands, Regional
The World Health Organization classified the new COVID-19 variant as a “variant of concern” due to its high mutation and transmission rate. The new strain is called “omicron.” Image/ Getty
The authorities say 21 people are now in hospital, including five in intensive care, in what is a doubling within a week.
Among those in intensive care is a 14-year-old.
There are officially just over 6,000 active cases, but the figure is believed to be higher because it excludes people who are self-testing and not displaying any symptoms.
Meanwhile, the fine for those defying mandatory vaccination has been lowered to $US475.
In August, the assembly passed a law making vaccination against Covid-19 compulsory for anyone dealing with the public and for individuals deemed to be vulnerable.
The assembly had set the fine for breaches at $1,650 but after protests and strikes, the government decided to delay the application of the law until this year while promising to lower the penalties.
While opposition parties called for the fines to be scrapped, the ruling majority in the assembly passed an amendment to lower the fine to $475.
It also decided to now exclude assembly members from the vaccination compulsion.
The assembly president Gaston Tong Sang had refused to comply with the law as did the vice-president Tearii Alpha, who defied his government colleagues.
Subsequently, President Edouard Fritch gave the vice-presidency to Jean-Christophe Bouissou but kept Mr Alpha as minister.
New Caledonia has recorded another 1,037 Covid-19 cases in what marks another rise in the incidence of the virus after several days of decline.
The tally of active cases is just under 14,000, bringing the total of recorded cases in the territory since September to just under 44,000.
The number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients is 43, of whom three are in intensive care.
Since last Tuesday, the health pass, which is needed to access a range of venues, is only valid for people who have received the booster shot.
However, because some people had not been able to get their booster shot in time, the French High Commission has granted those affected a grace period until 2 March.
The restriction on the size of meetings to 30 people and the mask mandates remain in force until Sunday.
Kiribati recorded two more Covid-19 deaths over the weekend, bringing the total number of people who have now died from the virus to 11.
The Health Ministry reports the victims were a 70-year-old man with underlying medical conditions and an 89-year-old woman who was unvaccinated.
There have been over 2,800 infections recorded across the atoll islands, with 23 new cases reported in the past two days.
The Government has extended its nationwide lockdown for another fortnight since Friday.
Authorities said the lockdown "may be longer should the need arise" due to widespread community transmissions.
They also warn that anyone that breaches the public health regulations could be arrested or face imprisonment.
The Cook Islands recorded its fourth Covid-19 case over the weekend.
A person travelling to Aitutaki tested positive from the Rapid Antigen test that all travellers to the Pa Enua (outer islands) are required to take prior to their flight.
A PCR test was then undertaken to confirm the RAT test result and late last night that result also came back positive.
The case has been issued an isolation order requiring them to isolate for at least the next 10 days.