COVID-19, the Pacific vuvale, and Pacer Plus

In a world devastated by COVID-19, enlightened leaders throughout the world have been thinking “out of adversity comes opportunity”, a wise saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin, among many others. Are Pacific Islands leaders doing so?

With tourism industries devastated globally but relatively contained in NZ and Australia, early plans for travel bubbles have been brutally burst  when COVID-19 resurged in Victoria these last few weeks.

Victoria has now desperately pushed into “Stage 4 Lockdown”, with travel to even other states totally banned, effectively and strangely, now “a nation within a nation”, with totally different COVID-19 restrictions.

Nevertheless, for PICs, a little glimmer of hope has suddenly appeared, with the Australian Government about to approve a scheme to allow 200 Ni-Vanuatu laborers to come to Northern Territory for the mango harvest.

Pacific Governments and leaders should now be seriously thinking about how they themselves can facilitate more “WIN- WIN” opportunities with specific states in Australia, that can take advantage out of the COVID-19 adversity, instead of relying on yet more Australian and other hand-outs.

Pacific countries must themselves take the initiatives to build on the few opportunities that the Australian government does recognise and accept, such as the use of PIC labor for seasonal work in Australia, such as the mango harvesting in Northern Territory.

With “taking opportunity out of the COVID-19 adversity” as the uniting theme, I suggest the PICS consider two schemes:

The first is to create COVID-Free Transit Zones (CFTZs) in their own countries, at their own expense, to facilitate the two-way travel of persons (diplomatic and defense personnel,  seasonal labor, health nurses, and perhaps tourists) to and from Australia.

The second is to give aid to Australia in the form of emergency nurses to help with the COVID-19 crisis in Victoria, just as they did with fire fighters in the recent Australian bushfire crisis.

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