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COVID-19 – the Pacific response: June 2022

05 July 2022

The Health Authority of Papua New Guinea’s most populous province has had to shutter its doors, whilst nearly one-third of Nauru’s population has been detected with COVID-19.

This is the final monthly edition of the COVID-19 Trendlines created by the Australia Pacific Security College, with two more quarterly editions still to come before the end of 2022. As the pandemic moves into a new phase, the College will shift its coverage of regional security issues into our new Security Snapshot series, which will be inclusive of pandemic related events. Our COVID-19 interactive map will continue to be updated weekly with case and vaccination numbers.

Nauru has recorded a significant amount of community transmission of COVID-19 this month after the virus leaked from quarantine. Three cases were initially detected on Friday 17 June, before quickly spiralling to over 3,000 – almost a third of the country’s population. As a result, there have been reports of panic-buying in some districts of the country.

No lockdown has been enforced, and vaccination rates are high at 98 per cent, but people are advised to stay at home if possible and wear a mask when shopping. The Refugee Action Coalition in Australia has expressed concern over the 350 asylum seekers and refugees left on the island, who they fear will not receive adequate care.

In Papua New Guinea (PNG), The National Capital District Provincial Health Authority (NCDPHA) has stopped all COVID-19 vaccinations and testing, due to a lack of funding. The board made the decision on 16 June, as the NCDPHA were locked out of their operation centre in Port Moresby due to a failure to pay rent.

The Authority no longer has access to important medical equipment, and CEO Dr Steven Yennie has stated that until the national government restores funding, activities will continue to be suspended. However, the National Control Centre, also based in the capital, will remain operational. The shuttering of the NCDPHA couldn’t come at a worse time with PNG’s vaccination rate remaining at only three per cent and an expected surge in cases during this month’s general election.

Meanwhile, Solomon Islands will receive 200,000 paediatric COVID-19 vaccine doses from Australia, as it looks to inoculate its population aged between five and 11 years. Health Minister Dr Culwick Togamana stated that with the international border reopening on 25 July, the vaccine delivery will be timely in protecting children against the virus. Secondary schools in the country reopened on 30 May, primary classes on 13 June, and early childhood learning on 4 July.

Likewise, Vanuatu has launched its COVID-19 vaccination program for adolescents aged between 12 and 17. According to Acting Director of Public Health Dr Jenny Stephen, the Moderna vaccine will be available at schools, health facilities, and outreach sessions. 83 per cent of all eligible adults have received one dose of a vaccination, with 75.8 per cent fully vaccinated.

In the French territories, New Caledonia ended all COVID-19 related restrictions on 12 June, due to a decrease in COVID-19 cases. This includes an end to mandatory mask wearing indoors, although masks continue to be strongly recommended by health authorities. Likewise, French Polynesia lifted all travel restrictions from 12 June, with travellers no longer required to take a mandatory COVID-19 test. Vaccination rates in French Polynesia and New Caledonia sit at 81 per cent and 63 per cent respectively.

Fiji has recorded only two COVID-19 deaths over the past month, despite high numbers of international tourists. This is likely thanks to the country’s strong vaccination rate, with 95 per cent of the country’s adult population having two doses, and 44 per cent with a booster.

In Niue, the country’s Premier, Dalton Tagelagi, was declared a close contact of a COVID-19 case. This comes as the country recently welcomed its first quarantine-free flight from New Zealand. Five people from the flight tested positive at the border, with no transmission yet in the community.

Samoa’s Ombudsman has condemned the country’s prisons in a report for failing to meet COVID-19 safety standards. The report claims multiple facilities have not adhered to social distancing measures, with significant overcrowding in cell blocks.

In Micronesia, Guam has ended testing for arrivals, however, proof of vaccination is still required for entry. Meanwhile, in a further effort to attract tourists, the territory has launched a pilot program to give free COVID-19 tests to those tourists requiring it to re-enter their home countries. Meanwhile, The Pacific Mini Games hosted by the Northern Mariana Islands has seen an increase in the country’s community transmission.

Briefly, American Samoa has lifted most of its COVID-19 restrictions, with its Health Department now releasing virus data weekly rather than daily.

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Updated:  26 May 2024/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team