Apr 08, 2020 Last Updated 3:40 AM, Apr 8, 2020

The Vanuatu Electoral Commission has hit its worst nightmare as the official results continue to be delayed due to the COVID-19 situation and sadly, the passing of its Electoral Chairman Martin Tete in the early hours today at the Vila Central hospital (VCH).

Tete was reportedly admitted to VCH over the weekend after feeling unwell.

He served the Vanuatu Electoral Office for over a decade. Tete is well-respected for his unimpeachable integrity and is being mourned as died before the official declaration of wining candidates could be made.

He has been an integral part of Vanuatu’s electoral process and his passing will leave a big gap and loss for the country.

The Electoral Office today announced that their office will close until Thursday following the passing of Tete.

Caretaker Minister of Internal Affairs Andrew Napuat said it is a very challenging time for the government and the Ministry he leads: “The global threat in COVID-19 is being managed by the task-force set up by the government.

“Our role regarding elections and the loss of our chairman is to consult the State Law Office to advise us on the legal provisions that we should follow in such situations to ensure we publish the results as required by law.”

Meanwhile, as Vanuatu remains alert over the COVID-19 situation the transportation of ballot boxes from outer islands coming into Port Vila were monitored strictly over COVID-19 fears.

A patrol boat from the Solomon Islands that was in Vanuatu to help with the election has reportedly been isolated with all its crews and force members quarantined after returning from Aneiytum island.

They were quarantined including ballot boxes after reports emerged that a tourist who visited the island tested positive on arrival in Australia after visiting the island on Voyager of the Seas cruise ship this month.

Caretaker Minister Napuat urged the people of Vanuatu to remain calm and assured them that his office is doing everything under the law to ensure the results are published as required.

With the unofficial results now up and the advice from the Ministry of Health and Task force team to avoid social gatherings and maintain social distancing, political lobbying might take a new form where political parties and candidates do away with the traditional way of camping to maintain numbers, and instead ‘camp’ electronically through the use of social media.  

To date, caretaker PM Charlot Salwai and Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu appear to have held their seats. Regenvanu's Graon Mo Jastis Party has nine seats, the Reunification Movement for Change has eight, the Leaders Party of Vanuatu also has eight seats, and the  Vanua'aku Party has six according to the unofficial count.

 

President of French Polynesia Edouard Fritch has announced the first case of Covid-19 in Tahiti - the first confirmed case of the coronavirus across the Pacific Islands.

President Fritch said that Maina Sage, French Polynesia’s representative in the French National Assembly, had been confirmed with the virus after returning from Paris on 7 March. Ms. Sage is resting at home in self-isolation in Papeete.

Maina Sage recently served on a National Assembly commission with France’s Culture Minister Franck Riester, who has also been confined in France after contracting Covid-19.

Announcing the first confirmed case of the coronavirus in Tahiti, President Fritch reassured people about government plans for monitoring, testing and isolation. He stated, however: “I invite the population to avoid travel outside the country.”

Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron postponed a long-scheduled visit to French Polynesia because of the international health crisis. Macron was due to visit between 16-18 April for a summit with Island leaders, but his trip has been delayed until later this year.

Regional organisations and Pacific governments are preparing for more cases of Covid-19 in the islands region, as the World Health Organisation declares a global pandemic. But many citizens in small island developing states are fearful of the potential stress on medical services. An epidemic of measles across the Pacific last year highlighted the potential for transmission of infectious diseases, adding to existing burdens on public health systems from non-communicable diseases.

The international spread of the virus is starting to affect tourism in the islands – a vital source of revenue and employment. Many island nations have restricted visits by cruise ships and changed air schedules for their national airlines: Air Calédonie International has announced it will reduce the number of scheduled flights to Melbourne and Osaka from May, while Air Tahiti Nui has reduced flights to Japan. In an unprecedented step, the Republic of the Marshall Islands restricted all airline travel into the country for two weeks, until 22 March.

Fijian soldiers returning from peacekeeping duties in Iraq tonight will not be able to meet their relatives immediately after arrival. This is a precaution against the corona Virus, COVID-19.

Iraq has 54 reported COVID-19 cases and four deaths, according to the World Health Organization. All 54 cases entered Iraq from other countries.

A directive from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces has warned relatives that they must report to the army’s camp within the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji compound. “Here they will be briefed on all processes and procedures regarding the arrival of the troops and follow on measures that should be followed after service personnel and their family members are home,” said Colonel Pacolo Luveni , Director Peace Support Operations, in a media  release.

“This measure is being taken to minimise disruptions to Nadi Airport operations and to ensure the safety, security and wellbeing of all during the planned arrival of the troops.’’

It is unclear at this stage whether the troops will undergo a 14-day quarantine period before being allowed to return to their homes. The troops will arrive at 6pm after a 12-month tour of duty with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq.

There have been no cases of coronavirus reported in the Pacific Islands region, although Australia and New Zealand have reported cases, and in the case of Australia, one death.

However the Pacific region has responded with a series of travel advisories and requirements.

These are constantly being updated, but here is the most recent series of requirements, as of March 2.

American Samoa

  • All passengers who have been to or transited through countries with confirmed cases of coronavirus on or after February 1 must spend at least 14 days in the State of Hawaii, Tonga or Samoa, and must present a heath certificate dated no more than 3 days prior to travel certifying that they are free of any signs of viral infection prior to being accepted for travel.
  • All passengers travelling beyond Samoa must spend 14 days in Samoa or Tonga and produce a health exam only from the Ministry of Health 3 days before entry to American Samoa.
  • Travellers coming from/going to only Hawaii, Tonga or Samoa do not need to spend 14 days in those locations or acquire a health exam.

https://6fe16cc8-c42f-411f-9950-4abb1763c703.filesusr.com/ugd/4bfff9_27fecacb5e5544a1b8c97a7508660d56.pdf

 


Cook Islands

  • Travellers who have been to the following countries within the last 14 days will be denied entry: China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Italy and Iran.
  • Persons who have transited through any of these countries within the last 14 days will also be denied entry to the Cook Islands.

https://cookislands.travel/news/novel-coronavirus-information-travellers-arriving-cook-islands

 

CNMI

  • Generally, foreign nationals (other than immediate family of US citizens, permanent residents, and flight crew) who have travelled in China within 14 days of their arrival will be denied entry into the United States.
  • US citizens who travelled to China within 14 days of their arrival in the US will be directed to one of several airports with advanced public health screening capabilities. They will also be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine, either in a health facility or in home quarantine depending on where they travelled in China.

http://www.chcc.gov.mp/coronavirusinformation.php

Federated States of Micronesia

  • All travel to and from mainland China is banned.
  • People travelling from countries, states or territories with confirmed cases of the coronavirus (other than mainland China) are not allowed to enter into the FSM unless they have stayed in countries, states or territories with no confirmed cases of the coronavirus for no less than 14 days immediately prior to their arrival in FSM.
  • In effect until March 14.

https://gov.fm/index.php/component/content/article/35-pio-articles/news-and-updates/277-public-announcement-why-the-fsm-national-government-reinstated-travel-restrictions-for-travelers-originating-from-covid-19-affected-countries?Itemid=177

https://gov.fm/files/Decree_to_Extend_Travel_Restrictions_Feb_28_2020.pdf

Fiji

  • From 28 February, Fiji's borders will be closed to all foreign nationals who have been in mainland China, Italy and Iran, or in Chengdu County and Daegu City in South Korea, within 14 days of their intended travel to Fiji. This follows the travel restriction placed on mainland China which has been in effect since the start of February.
  • All international air passengers are being screened with handheld temperature scanners. Fiji is also working to have thermal scanners installed at its international airports this month.
  • From 28 February, all cruise ships entering Fijian waters will be required to make first berth at ports in Suva or Lautoka, where all passengers on board will also undergo our earlier announced medical and travel history checks.

https://www.fiji.gov.fj/Media-Centre/News/STATEMENT-FROM-THE-DEPARTMENT-OF-IMMIGRATION-(2)

French Polynesia

  • All cruise ships must stop in Papeete before heading elsewhere in the islands.
  • Cruise companies must advise authorise 48 hours before arrival that no one on board has the virus
  • Work permits have been suspended for locally employed Chinese workers who are currently in China
  • Before boarding a flight into French Polynesia, all passengers regardless of their nationality who have transited through or visited one of the following countries/locations within 30 days prior to travel to French Polynesia : China, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Iran,, Italy (Lombardia, Venice and Emilie-Romagne) Macao, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Cote du Sud, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, must present a medical certificate not older than 5 days certifying the traveller’s health condition, regardless of their port of embarkation.

https://www.airtahitinui.com/us-en/reinforcement-precautionary-measures-taken-french-polynesian-government

Guam

  • All non-US citizens who have been physically present in China within 14 days prior to arrival will be denied entry into Guam.
  • US citizens, permanent residents, and family members to US citizens will be allowed to enter the territory but will be placed under a 14-day quarantine.

 

Kiribati

  • All travellers from areas and territories in countries with local transmission of novel coronavirus must spend at least 14 days in a country free of COVID-19 and must provide a medical clearance to confirm and/or prove their coronavirus-free status.
  • This also applies to returning residents.

https://www.facebook.com/info.mhms.gov.ki

Marshall Islands

  • The RMI has suspended all air and sea travel to and from the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Italy, Japan, and Iran.  Travelers that have visited or transited these countries after December 31, 2019 will be denied entry into the RMI. 
  • All passengers arriving to the RMI and residents departing the RMI must show documentation of an up-to-date measles vaccination (i.e., in line with CDC recommendations) or a signed doctor’s note indicating contraindication.  
  • The RMI government announced on February 15, 2020 the construction of a new eight-bed isolation unit to be built and ready within the next 30 days

https://www.facebook.com/rmimoh/

Nauru

Nauru has announced entry restrictions for any travellers who have travelled from or through China in the 21 days prior to traveling to Nauru. The same restriction applies to travel from or through areas with a “publicly stated outbreak” or other areas of outbreak concern specified by the Nauru Ministry of Health and Medical Services.

New Caledonia

  • New Caledonia has implemented new entry measures in response to the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Expect increased screening at airports.
  • If arriving by ship, you won’t be able to leave it if you've visited China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Singapore, South Korea, Iran or Italy in the past two weeks. If there is a risk of coronavirus on a cruise ship, no one will be able to leave it.
  • Ports in the Loyalty Islands (Mare and Lifou) and the Isle of Pines are not currently accepting cruise ships.

https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/destinations/pacific/new-caledonia

https://gouv.nc/actualites/12-02-2020/le-gouvernement-sur-le-front-du-coronavirus

https://www.facebook.com/GouvNC

Niue

  • All travellers who have been in or travelled to China within 30 days prior to arriving in Niue must spend no less than 14 days in a country free from coronavirus and must acquire an official medical clearance which must be undertaken 3 days prior to arrival in Niue.
  • All official Niue government travel to and from China and other countries where coronavirus is present is cancelled.

https://www.niueisland.com/travelling-to-niue

Palau

  • Temporary suspension of flights from People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, and Macau to Palau
  • Until March 31, temporary restriction of entry of foreign travellers originating from or transiting through mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau in the past 14 days into Palau.
  • Cruise ships originating from or transiting through mainland China, Hong Kong, or Macau restricted from entering into Palau until March 31, 2020.

http://www.palauhealth.org/

PNG

  • Entry banned to anyone arriving from Wuhan, Hebei Province in China
  • Entry banned to anyone arriving from mainland China within 14 days until they are medically cleared by a reputable clinic, based on WHO standards.

https://ica.gov.pg/uploads/media/public_notice_1577386-refusal-of-entry-for-travellers-from-the-asian-ports2.pdf

Samoa

  • Compulsory screening of all arriving passengers to Samoa is now in effect at all ports of entry.
  • All Travelers originating FROM or TRANSITING through mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea or Italy must spend at least 14 days self-quarantine at country of last port that is free of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus and must undergo medical clearance within (3) days prior to final route to Samoa. This must be their final stop before travelling to Samoa. All Travelers before entering Samoa are required to be tested for the Coronavirus (COVID-2019).
  • All travellers originating from or transiting through the listed countries and states below are required to undergo medical examination by a Registered Medical Practitioner within (3) days before arrival. This medical clearance is required for check-in prior to issuing of boarding passes: Taiwan, USA-California, Malaysia, Australia, France, Germany, Vietnam, Canada, Iran, United Arab Emirates
  • No cruise ships will be granted entry into Samoa until further notice.

http://www.samoagovt.ws/2020/02/health-travel-advisory-novel-coronavirus-covid-2019-effective-immediately-3/

  • Effective from 2 March 2020 Samoa has reduced the frequency of international flights from New Zealand to Samoa. Contact your airline, travel agent, accommodation provider and travel insurance provider to confirm your travel and related arrangements. Airlines and other travel providers will have the most up-to-date information about flight availability.
  • Effective from 2 March 2020 Travellers entering Samoa from or transiting through all ports in New Zealand are required to undergo medical examination by a Registered Medical Practitioner within three days before arrival.  This medical clearance report will be required for check-in prior to issuing of boarding passes.

https://www.safetravel.govt.nz/samoa

  • Information on flight reductions

http://www.samoagovt.ws/2020/02/special-health-travel-advisory-in-relation-to-the-2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19/

Solomon Islands

  • If any person, who has for 14 days prior to arriving in the Solomon Islands, been in a country where there is a confirmed case of the Coronavirus (Affected Countries), that person ,after assessment by immigration and health officials, may be allowed to enter the Solomon Islands however he or she may be subject to detention or placed in quarantine.
  • If any person who has travelled from or transited through the Countries identified below as 'Restricted Countries' at any time in the 14 days immediately before the day on which the person arrives in the Solomon Islands will not be permitted to enter the Country. 
  • Solomon Airlines will continue to operate all flights in accordance with the published schedule unless otherwise notified.
  • Restricted Countries (as at 8AM, 27 February 2020): People's Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Japan, Singapore, Italy, Hong Kong SAR, Thailand, Iran, Chinese Taipei, Macau.
  • Affected countries (as at 8AM, 27 February 2020): Afghanistan, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, India, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nepal, Oman, Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America and Vietnam.

https://www.flysolomons.com/library/signed_joint-ta-no.2_27.02.20.pdf

https://www.flysolomons.com/plan/travel-advice

Tonga

  • All international travellers originating from or transiting through China must spend at least 14 days self-quarantine outside China. On completion of this period they must then obtain medical clearance at least three days prior to entry to Tonga.

http://www.health.gov.to/drupal/sites/default/files/Travel%20advisory%203_English%20version%20final%20copy.PDF

Tuvalu

  • The Government of Tuvalu announced restrictions prohibiting entry to Tuvalu of anyone who has been in China within 30 days of arrival in Tuvalu. This restriction includes entry to seafarers from foreign vessels that have been in China or “a high-risk country” (understood to be countries where coronavirus is present) in the last 30 days.
  • Travelers who have been in a “high-risk country” must obtain a medical clearance three days prior to entering Tuvalu and must remain in a country other than those listed as “high-risk” for at least five days before re-entering Tuvalu.
  • Health screening will be conducted at Funafuti airport and seaport, and may also be conducted at Nausori (Fiji) Airport and Tarawa (Kiribati) Airport.

 

Vanuatu

  • Any travellers from mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Japan and Singapore in the previous 14 days will be denied entry until further notice.
  • Any travellers from or who have transited mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Japan and Singapore since December 31, 2019 and who have spent the previous 14 days outside these places must obtain a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner certifying they are free from any respiratory illness suspected of coronavirus.
  • Returning residents holding a Vanuatu Passport, who have been away in another country excluding main land of China, within the last two months, may transit from Hong Kong SAR or Singapore to Vanuatu given that the transit period is not more than eight hours and must remain in the terminal and refrain from going outside.
  • Returning residents with a Vanuatu passport who will be transiting for more than eight hours in Hong Kong SAR or leave the terminal must be self-Quarantined for 14 days outside of Vanuatu before coming into the country.

https://www.fj.emb-japan.go.jp/files/000572308.pdf

Wallis and Futuna

http://www.wallis-et-futuna.gouv.fr/

https://au.ambafrance.org/-English-

An outbreak of a new coronavirus has killed at least 106 people in China, and has spread to some of the Pacific’s close neighbours, including Australia (with five cases) and Malaysia (with four).

The United States, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, France, Vietnam, Canada, Cambodia, Nepal and Germany have also reported cases, but no coronavirus deaths.

Pacific Island nations, several of whom are still reeling from the impact of the recent measles epidemic, have taken action. Here is a regional wrap up:

Samoa

  • Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said: “Cabinet is fully aware that another infectious disease outbreak will have catastrophic effects on the whole of Samoa and Cabinet is not sitting on the sidelines.
  • Government personnel are restricted from travelling to the Asia Region especially countries such as of Japan, Thailand, South Korea, United States of America, Australia and Europe. Only essential trips are exempted from the restriction subject to Cabinet approval.  All non-essential trips by the Public Service are suspended until further notice from Cabinet.
  • For Border Security purposes, no visitor will be allowed entry to Samoa unless they satisfy the mandate to undergo medical clearance at least three days before travelling to Samoa to confirm that they are free of any infectious diseases.
  • All travellers from Coronavirus affected countries must spend at least 14 days in a country free of the virus and undergo medical clearance prior to travel to Samoa.
  • The Ministry of Health is screening for all passengers arriving in Samoa via the Faleolo International Airport and the Matautu Wharf.  Crew members on all incoming container vessels as well as long liners must undergo screening.
  • Samoa banned entry to six Chinese nationals over the weekend based on a ‘Special Travel Advice/Restriction’ .
  • Under the same provision, two Samoan sailors are in quarantine at Faleolo District Hospital as a precautionary move after they spent two days in China.

PNG:

  • Air Niugini has restricted carrying all PNG bound passengers originating in China to travel with them unless they are in possession of a medical clearance certificate issued by a certified institution in China.
  • The Health department is screening incoming passengers for signs of cough, fever and shortness of breath.

Marshall Islands

  • "Any traveller with travel originating from or transiting through the PRC must spend at least 14 days in a country not affected by 2019-nCoV (the World Health Organization's designation for the new coronavirus)," says the travel restriction released by Marshall Islands Health Secretary Jack Niedenthal.
  • Any traveller who arrives within the 14 day period will have their entry denied.
  • Niedenthal has told the Marshall Islands Journal that the virus “is pretty scary for us” and that the Marshall Islands’ two hospitals would be unable to handle the new virus.

 Tonga

  • In Tonga, a health team is stationed at Fua'amotu International Airport to monitor all incoming passengers. Health CEO Dr Siale ‘Akau’ola says
  • A Tongan sports team currently in China and Tongan students studying there are reported to be safe and well.

Fiji

  • Six Chinese nationals who arrived from Hong Kong on Saturday are now in quarantine after they were refused entry to Samoa over the weekend.
  • 2 Chinese nationals are in self-imposed quarantine
  • All passengers travelling from Hong Kong and Singapore are being met by health officers to determine if they recently visited China's Hubei Province.
  • Government is working with Fiji Airways to identify at-risk travellers checking in at overseas ports. They will need to undergo thermal screening prior to boarding. Special Health Declaration Forms have also been introduced.
  • All cabin crew members are taking extra precautions on some routes, donning gloves and masks while working in cabins.
  • Fiji students in Wuhan are being provided with consular assistance and will be offered counselling.
  • The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association has released an advisory to its members as they deal with bookings as they deal with cancellations of group travel as a result of the suspension of travel from China.

 Palau

  • Palau has barred chartered flights from China and temporarily suspended direct charter flights from Hong Kong and Macau until further notice. In 2019, Palau received more than 30,000 Chinese tourists.

French Polynesia

  • French Polynesian authorities consider the risk posed by the virus as low but say a process is in place should the situation change.

Wallis and Futuna

  • A heat seeking camera has been installed at the airport to screen all arriving passengers.

Key facts

  • The World Health Organisation said that the virus has an incubation period of two to ten days, according to current estimates, and that work is still being done to determine whether people not yet showing symptoms can transmit the disease to others.
  • The outbreak of coronavirus is centred in Wuhan, a manufacturing centre in Hubei Province, China. The city has a population of 11 million.
  • It’s believed droplets of saliva, urine, faeces and blood could all be infectious. (WHO)

WHO situation report

It’s not caused by eating bat soup

 A video showing online travel host, Wang Mengyun, eating bat soup in Palau has gone viral, prompting racist attacks on the host, Asian communities and widely spread misinformation about how coronavirus spreads.

Symptoms of the virus include:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • It can cause lower respiratory tract illnesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Most of those who have died from the virus appear to have underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary artery disease, chronic kidney disease and Parkinson’s disease.
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