Race to send vaccines, medical aid as COVID-19 reaches Pacific islands

The Solomon Islands government has reported 21 deaths from COVID-19, and imposed restrictions on movements.

Solomon Islands National University professor Transform Aqorau said Honiara has been shut off, causing a scarcity of fresh food, and he had been eating from one plant in his garden.

“They have blocked Honiara in, vendors from outside can’t come in,” he told Reuters by phone.

He credited essential workers for keeping the power and water running, despite increasing numbers of staff testing positive and needing to isolate.

The rush for vaccination had also caused crowding with “a high level of lack of obedience to social distancing”, he said.

Vaccination sites closed from Wednesday to prevent the spread of the virus to health workers and the public, the health ministry said in a statement, adding it would “re-strategise” distribution.

An Australian medical team has also been sent to Kiribati, which has 913 cases after allowing a flight with returning nationals to land in January, its first outbreak since lifting border restrictions.

Palau, where 99 per cent of the population of 18,000 is vaccinated, recorded 2,115 COVID-19 cases in a month.

Tonga recorded its first community transition of COVID-19 on Tuesday, after two workers at a cargo wharf were infected. There are now five cases.

An influx of tsunami aid brought by foreign navy ships has been delivered without contact with Tongan people, and pallets are quarantined for 72 hours.

Greenwood said Pacific islands had worked hard for two years to keep COVID-19 out but new strains were more virulent and harder to detect. “There may be a small chink in the armour that allows COVID-19 to get in,” she said.

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