Although the coronavirus spread across the globe in waves of infection through most countries, the virus did not reach the Pacific Ocean islands. Even as cases emerged in places as remote as Antarctica, these islands — through geographic isolation and stringent policies — remained mostly untouched by the pathogen.
Omicron is a highly transmissible virus that spreads quickly and with an infectiousness unmatched by the pandemic. It has established a foothold in several island nations.
Some are seeing their first cases spread to the local population since the start of the pandemic. Others who have seen a decrease in their caseloads over the course of the pandemic are now watching with concern as local outbreaks become more common.
Kiribati is an example of extreme atolls and islands scattered over a large area of the Pacific Ocean, about twice the size as Alaska.
The country of 119,000 people has kept its borders closed for most of the pandemic. It had previously only recorded two Covid cases, both from a returning ship in may. The crew was quarantined but no outbreak was detected.
36 people tested positive for the virus after the first international flight from Fiji to Kiribati arrived last week. According to Radio Kiribati, the infection spread to a quarantine worker and two other people.
Tarawa, the capital of Japan, will be under lockdown Monday. Residents will only be able leave their homes to go grocery shopping. Except for emergency and essential services, all workplaces will be closed.
Tonga has seen aid workers scrambling to provide lifesaving supplies to the island nation after a volcanic eruption caused a tsunami. However, Tonga’s coronavirus-free status has made recovery difficult.
The country has only reported one coronavirus-related case during the pandemic. Local authorities expressed concern about allowing foreign aid workers to carry the virus.
This week, the Solomon Islands reported its first community transmissions. According to authorities, the source was a boat carrying an infected passenger that had illegally arrived on the island Ofong Java.
“Fellow Solomon Islanders, what we have feared has happened,” Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said on Tuesday. “We now have community transmission of Covid-19 in Ontong Java.”
“Expect the numbers of infected people to grow rapidly in the coming days and weeks,” he added. “Expect some people could get seriously sick. And also expect some people could even lose their lives.”
The authorities in Honiara had to take immediate action after community transmission was detected. As of Friday, there had been 169 confirmed cases in the country. However, only 56 beds were available for Covid patients.
Palau recently reported a coronavirus epidemic after almost two years of virus-free years. There were 183 cases of coronavirus and over 600 people in quarantine as of Friday. The country has closed schools for two weeks and banned community gatherings.
Samoa is considering cancelling repatriation flight after a plane carrying 10 positive passengers from Australia landed in Samoa. They are all stable and there is no evidence that the virus has spread to the community.
The cases still represent the highest number coronavirus cases the island nation has seen in its history since the beginning of the pandemic. Samoa previously had only two cases in quarantine.
Source: NY Times