Covid finally hits last nation standing; Tokelau reports first cases at the border
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Covid-19 has completed its round-the-world transmission, hitting Tokelau for the first time since the global outbreak was detected in 2020.
The Tokelau government reported Wednesday its first cases of Covid-19, which have been detected at the border of its northernmost atoll of Atafu.
Siopili Perez, the head of the Tokelau government, said the Covid cases were picked up through RAT screening in quarantine: three on Dec. 13, one on Dec. 14 and one on Dec. 18.
The Covid-stricken people were among the group that came from Fakaofo on the MV Mataliki, which had passengers who attended a wedding in Apia. They are three children, a young adult and a 24-year-old woman.
"As of today, all five positive cases are currently in quarantine. They are in good health, good spirits and are monitored closely by the Covid response team on Atafu," Perez said.
Perez said the announcement was delayed due to the geographical isolation of Tokelau's three atolls.
He said the government prioritized focus on first ensuring the safe management of the virus at Atafu's quarantine facility.
“It was important that we focus on getting everything right to keep the virus at the border. Right now, we are fortunate to have our own PCR analysis lab here on Nukunonu atoll so we will be able to know the results of their PCR tests soon to assess how much longer they will stay in managed isolation," Perez said.
Tokelau is a dependent territory of New Zealand in the southern Pacific Ocean, with a population of 1,500. It consists of three tropical coral atolls: Atafu, Nukunonu and Fakaofo.
“Tokelau has been very fortunate to date with our Covid program and vaccination roll-out to be the only country in the world without the virus in her communities. We have been blessed that our Covid-19 response led by each Taupulega and with the help of New Zealand and our partners is where it needs to be with almost all of Tokelau's eligible population fully vaccinated," Perez said.
The government said containing the virus at the border shows Tokelau's Covid-19 response has been vigilant and effective.
"However, a few changes to strengthen the response have since been made: fast-tracking a request to New Zealand for a second vaccine booster targeting end of 2022; a ban on inter-atoll travel effective immediately; and timely incorporation of latest science evidence-based information into the Covid-19 Response Plan," the government said in a press statement.
Perez said his government has asked New Zealand for a supply of second booster shots.
"New Zealand is working hard to deliver our vaccine supply to us by 29 December," he said. "Once our second booster has been administered, we will be even more confident in our fight against Covid-19. But for now, keeping the virus away from our community remains our utmost priority.”
Perez confirmed a travel ban between the three Tokelau atolls except for essential officials and supplies, until further notice. There are no expected changes to travel arrangements and activities between Tokelau and Samoa.
“We have remained vigilant; we have caught this case at the border and I ask our people on all three atolls to remain vigilant so we keep this virus outside of our community. We acknowledge our diaspora support and that of New Zealand and our partners. And above all, our Heavenly Father for safeguarding Tokelau from the ill effects of this pandemic," Perez said.
Some countries and territories have declared that Covid-19 is now in an endemic phase.
According to epidemiologists, a disease is endemic when its presence becomes steady or predictable in a particular region. But currently, there’s no consensus on the conditions for meeting this benchmark.