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  • Writer's pictureBy Mar-Vic Cagurangan

As the vaccine era begins, 8 Pacific island nations remain Covid-free

Eight island nations in the Pacific region are the last survivors of the brutal Covid-19 pandemic that has infected 98 million, including 2 million deaths, around the world since last year.

Palau, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu remain coronavirus-free as the world community enters the vaccine era.

The Federated States of Micronesia recorded its first Covid-19 positive case on Jan. 7 involving a crew member of the government-owned cargo-passenger vessel MV Chief Mailo, which returned from a yearlong dry-dock in the Philippines. National government officials reassured FSM citizens that the situation is under control.

The four FSM states have begun rolling out their vaccination programs,

Also among the previously Covid-free Pacific Island countries that have been hit eventually were Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, where the reported cases came from travelers arriving from overseas and picked up through border quarantine.

Fiji has gone more than 250 days without reporting a case of Covid-19 in the community.

Just the same, Pacific Island nations receive foreign aid that props up their inadequate health care systems.

This week, the European Union (EU), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations World Food Program and the Pacific Community (SPC) signed an agreement that will strengthen their existing partnership to support health sector responses to Covid-19 across the Pacific.

This follows the new Financing Agreement the EU and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat signed to repurpose funding to support the Pacific’s response to Covid-19.

A press release from SPC said under the new agreement the EU will contribute over $24 million (equivalent of EUR 20 million) of the funding repurposed under the EU-PIFS Financing Agreement to support Cook Islands, Kiribati, Fiji, Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu to mitigate the impacts of Covid-19.

The funding under the agreement, according to SPC, includes over $500 million in WHO’s contribution to the implementation of this agreement.

“In response to Covid-19 in the Pacific, the priorities of the European Union are to address its health and socio-economic impact," Sujiro Seam, the EU ambassador to Fiji and the Pacific, said during the signing in Suva Jan. 26

Seam said the agreement, which allocated EU's contribution, is aimed at supporting the Pacific Island countries' medical systems "to allow them to deal not only with Covid-19, but all health challenges.”

Dr. Corinne Capuano, WHO’s director of Pacific Technical Support, said EU’s funding assistance will help strengthen testing capacity, infection prevention and control, and preparedness for the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines.

"It comes at a time when PICs are preparing for the arrival of the first allocations of Covid-19 vaccines which are expected in the coming months,” Capunao said.

“Supporting national efforts collectively has resulted in proactively developing and implementing regional mechanisms to address the significant impacts of the pandemic in our region, such as the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on Covid-19," said SPC’s Deputy Director General Dr Paula Vivili.

Vivili said SPC will use the funding to support PICTs Covid-19 response through public health surveillance and laboratory services, monitoring and evaluation, strengthening the One-Health approach as well as risk communication.

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