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:
- 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.
- 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.
- “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.
- 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.
- 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 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 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.
- 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)
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:
- 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.