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Restrictions ease but fear of virus still high

Monday 11 May 2020 | Written by Legacy Author | Published in Small World


The region is still grappling with both the fear of and the real impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic but the US territory of Guam, the hardest hit of all Pacific islands, is now making moves to ease social restrictions.

PACIFIC – Guam has further eased its Covid-19 restrictions, now allowing gatherings of more than 10 people.

The territory was the part of the Pacific worst-hit by the coronavirus, with 151 cases and five deaths, RNZP has reported.

But for several weeks there have been no more than a few cases, with growing confidence the outbreak has been brought under control.

From yesterday morning, retail outlets, shopping malls, salons, and government services have been allowed to operate.

However, they must have several safety measures in place, such as social distancing.

Guam’s nearest neighbour, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, has recorded a new Covid-19 case, a 67 year-old man who tested positive of the coronavirus through the airport surveillance process.

The individual was screened and tested upon arrival on Saturday at the Saipan International Airport.

He is a resident of Guam and after testing positive was immediately isolated. Contact tracing has begun for close contacts, including other passengers aboard the flight.

The CNMI now has 16 positive cases with two 12 recoveries and two deaths.

French Polynesia remains determined to control the spred of the virus. The government says anyone entering the territory from mainland France will have to go be tested for Covid-19 before departure and go into quarantine for two weeks on arrival.

The president Edouard Fritch restated the entry conditions amid a sustained clamour by residents for weeks to be allowed to return.

Fritch said the repatriation would have to be phased because of limited capacity to accommodate arrivals.

He said more than 340 rooms have been reserved in various locations while about 1000 French Polynesian residents registered in Paris wishing to return.

Amid calls to charter a plane for repatriation flights, the president said every ten days the French government-sponsored flight from Paris to Papeete would carry some people to Tahiti.

He said the crisis management team had drawn up a list determining who would be entitled to be flown first.

Fritch noted that more than 1500 French public service employees would need to be transported to Tahiti between May and July.

He said he hoped that by July scheduled airline services would have resumed.

A health state of emergency declared in France in March was this weekend extended to July 10. France has recorded almost 140,000 Covid-19 cases while French Polynesia had 60.

Samoa’s government has approved four Air New Zealand flights into the country this month.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said he is aware of more than 900 people who are wanting to return to Samoa, either because they’re stranded or because their New Zealand permits have expired.

Samoa’s border has been closed since early March, and no inbound travel has been allowed.

Anyone wanting to return to Samoa will have to have a Covid-19 test at least three days before they leave, and will be quarantined for 14 days on arrival.

Anyone wanting to travel from Samoa to New Zealand will also be subject to Covid-19 quarantine measures.

A cruise ship is on its way from New Caledonia to Wallis and Futuna with more than 100 people who had been stranded in Noumea because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Wallis and Futuna, which closed its borders to passenger flights as well as passenger ships in mid-March, has remained free of the virus.

The ship, Le Laperouse, is expected to remain at sea for two weeks to provide quarantine for the passengers.

The Le Laperouse is scheduled to make a second trip from Noumea to Wallis later this month to repatriate another 100 people. No date has been given for the reopening of flights between the two territories.