Isolation and closed borders: Here's how ten Pacific Island nations are Covid-19-free
- Globally, there are now more than 31,200,000 Covid-19 cases, but there’s no Covid-19 in Samoa, Tonga, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Vanuatu, Micronesia, and the Solomon Islands.
- The reason for this is these small island nations promptly closed their borders early this year, after realizing their health systems were under-equipped to deal with an outbreak, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
- Australia Pacific Security College public health epidemiologist told the Herald the small island nations’ decision to close their borders was the right one.
- But there have been drawbacks to the closed borders. A number of these nations rely on tourism and it’s no longer happening.
- Even so, Vanuatu’s director of public health Dr. Len Tarivonda told the BBC despite the tourism losses many people still didn’t want borders to open.
- “If you talk to them the majority say keep the border closed for as long as possible. They say: ‘We don’t want the sickness — otherwise we’re doomed, basically,’” he said.
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Along with paradisical warm waters and golden sand, 10 Pacific Island nations are still completely Covid-19 free due to closed border and geographical isolation, but it has come at a cost.
Samoa, Tonga, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Vanuatu, Micronesia, and the Solomon Islands, are all Covid-19 free, according to the Sydney Morning Herald
These small island nations — that are also dealing with the daily impacts of climate change — managed to keep the coronavirus out by promptly closing their borders after conceding early on this year that their health systems were under-equipped to deal with an outbreak of the coronavirus.
Australia Pacific Security College public health epidemiologist told the Herald six months on the small island nation's decision to close their borders was the right one.
"There is no doubt that the border closures have been critical in preventing Covid-19 taking hold in the Pacific," he said.
"The key now is balancing when and how to open up, and ensuring that agencies working on the front line of borders, such as customs and immigration officials, are as well prepared as possible."
There have been drawbacks to the closed borders — a number of these nations rely on tourism that's no longer happening.
For instance, Palau, a nation of less than 20,000, relies on tourism for 40% of its GDP, according to the BBC.
The Marshall Islands are expected to lose more than 700 jobs, according to the BBC, its biggest loss since 1997, with 258 of them being hotel and restaurant jobs.
But some of the Pacific nations are wary of opening up too soon after French Polynesia opened in July to help its ailing tourism sector, which resulted in swift outbreaks of Covid-19, according to The Guardian.
Vanuatu's director of public health Dr. Len Tarivonda told the BBC many people didn't want borders to reopen despite the drawbacks.
"If you talk to them the majority say keep the border closed for as long as possible. They say: 'We don't want the sickness – otherwise we're doomed, basically,'" he said.
Tarivonda said Vanuatu at least wouldn't rush to reopen after watching cases rise in Papua New Guinea, many of those traced back to the US military presence on the island, according to The Guardian.
"If the virus comes, it will probably be like wildfire – and what we are seeing in Papua New Guinea is a reflection of why we are worried," he said.
"Given our [health care] limitations, the context we have in the Pacific, the best bet is to keep the virus out for as long as possible."
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