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COVID-19 – Welcome to the Pacific response

08 April 2020

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Welcome to a new weekly Australia Pacific Security College (PSC) and Policy Forum initiative, tracking policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic across the Pacific Islands region. This is a snapshot of policy responses, correct as of 10:30am, 7 April 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents one of the greatest human security challenges the Pacific Islands region has faced. The crisis is demanding innovation and bold policy steps by leaders at all levels in our communities. In this period, it is more important than ever for Pacific policymakers to connect with one another, share expertise, and communicate policy responses. It is in this spirit that the PSC has created this tracking matrix to monitor policy responses by governments and Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP) agencies across the region.

The Week in Review

Guam continues to be the Pacific region’s COVID-19 hotspot, with 113 positive cases reported. Also of concern, positive COVID-19 results in Fiji have increased substantially over the past week with the possibility of community transmission – 14 recorded on 7 April 2020, up from five cases on 4 April 2020 – while the geographic spread of Papua New Guinea’s two confirmed cases are worrying.

Pacific Island countries have begun to announce substantial economic stimulus packages over the past week to respond to the impact of the pandemic on the region’s economy. Governments are selecting from broad measures including mortgage deferrals, business loan guarantees, utility concessions, access to superannuation, and increases in social security.

Contractions in the hospitality and tourism sectors are obvious, but the World Bank has also argued that resource export-focused economies, such as Papua New Guinea, will likely see a collapse of government revenue linked to falling oil and gas prices.

Regional cooperation will be in the spotlight in the week ahead. Foreign ministers from across the region will meet virtually for an extraordinary meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum on 7 April 2020. Media has reported that Australia has raised the importance of supporting the Pacific region at the G20 and will ship testing kits, ventilators, and personal protective equipment to the region. Media reports that other large donors, such as New Zealand and China, have contributed resources to a number of countries in the region to assist with the response.

Hugh McClure is a Research Officer at the Australia Pacific Security College.

This article originally appeared on Asia & The Pacific Policy Society Policy Forum on 8 April 2020.

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