By Jonathan Perez
Three of the five countries that remain Covid-19 free are located in Oceania, where islands are often isolated and are scattered across the vast Pacific Ocean.
Nauru, Tuvalu and Tonga— with a combined population of 128,311—have not reported any cases of the deadly virus since the Covid-19 pandemic hit and began raging last year.
According to the Pacific Community (SPC), a total 47,685 Covid-19 cases have been reported in island countries and territories within the purview of the region organization.
French Polynesia, which has a population of 279,287, leads the pack with 18,991 cases, followed by Papua New Guinea, with 17,041 out of a population of 8.7 million. Guam, with a population of 160,000, has reported a total 8,310 cases.
Nauru, which has a total population of 12,581 based on 2019 statistics, is the smallest independent country in the Pacific region and, along with Tuvalu, is among the least visited in the world. They managed to keep in check the entry of the virus. Nauru is a small country where you can walk around the island in one day, and people can roam free, and go to bars, clubs, and restaurants without wearing face masks.
Tuvalu, which has an average of 200 visitor arrivals per year, only has a population of 11,793 making it easy for the government to prevent an outbreak.
Tonga is another lesser-known country in the Pacific and you might hear of the country unless you are a rugby fan as they are currently among the Top 20 in the world at No. 13. Tonga had eight suspected cases after testing was done but all the test results came out negative.
Tonga, which has a total of 105,695 in population, had imposed strict travel rules since February and immediately closed its borders after nearby Fiji, which is only a two-hour plane ride west, reported its first positive case of the coronavirus.
The Tongan government has banned the entry of foreign travelers into the kingdom.
Tonga has been in a lockdown since late March and started repatriating its citizens stranded in Fiji in July. The said flights are limited to only 60 people and are put in strict quarantine in a hotel once they arrive in the capital Nuku’alofa. The hotel is guarded by the police and the roads leading to the quarantine area had been closed to traffic.
Nauru, Tuvalu and Tonga join North Korea and Turkmenistan on the list of Covid-free locations.
North Korea and Turkmenistan have not reported a single Covid-19 case. However, the international community is skeptical of North Korea's Covid-virgin status. Pyongyang allows travelers from 22 countries-- including China, Myanmar, and Vietnam-- to travel to North Korea. Information from North Korea are controlled and released by the state-run media.
Turkmenistan, since seceding from the former Soviet Union in 1991, only had two presidents with Saparmurat Niyazov being in power for more than 16 years while current leader Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow now on his 15th year.
Palau and Kiribati nearly made it to the list until they reported their first cases of Covid-19 infection in May of this year.
Palau, a nation composed of more than 300 islands with a total population of 18,094, has fully vaccinated 13,251 adults based on statistics provided by the Ministry of Health.
Kiribati, population 119,451, declared a public emergency and closed down schools for two weeks that started on March 30.
Since late last year, other island nations had reported their first coronavirus case. The Solomon Islands had its first case on Oct. 3 while the Marshall Islands reported two cases on Oct. 29.
Vanuatu, which had a border case, declared its first case of infection of the virus on Nov. 11. The Federated States of Micronesia announced had its first case on Jan. 8.