By Bernadette Carreon
Palau records first Covid case
Koror-- Palau recorded its first “imported, historical" case of Covid-19, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced this morning
“We also know that it is no longer transmittable as the person who tested positive was infected with Covid a few months ago, “ Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. said in a press conference today.
Health officials said the traveler, who arrived in Koror from Guam on May 9, tested negative 72 hours prior to arrival. The traveler again tested negative on the seventh day and 14th day upon arrival.
On day 21, the person was again tested and yielded a positive result.
MOH also said that the person was infected in January prior to getting complete vaccination.
While advising residents to practice safety measures, health officials appealed for calm, noting that Palau is close to achieving herd immunity.
Currently, 71 percent of the nation's population has been vaccinated.
As of May 31, a total of 13,107 residents, or 96 percent of the adult population, have been fully vaccinated.
The government is preparing to expand vaccination to include adolescents, aged 12 to 17, once the new shipment of vaccine allocation arrives later this year
Whipps ruled out a lockdown. “The case is imported and historical based on the tests (by MOH),” he said.
The person is in isolation and asymptomatic. Those who were in close contact with the Covid-stricken individual have quarantined as well.
MOH said it has initiated further contact tracing and monitoring of other potential close contacts. "We understand that many people are concerned they might have been in contact with the traveler," health officials said.
“It is a travel-related case and not found in the community,” said Gaafar Uherbelau, deputy incident commander of the Emergency Operation Committee said.
He said the case is considered low risk. “At this time, there is no need to panic, we ask the people to remain calm. Contact tracing is ongoing, people who need to be notified or need to be interviewed will be contacted by our surveillance team,” he said.
Uherbelau advised the public to remain calm and practice preventive measures such as hand washing, physical distancing. "If you are sick stay home, and wear a mask," he added.
Dr. Thane Hancock from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), who joined the press conference virtually, said while the public might be concerned about the reported positive case, “Palau is in the best position to respond to this."
Hancock said there are cases in which a person can still test positive months after recovering from the coronavirus infection.
“It looks as we’ve learned with Covid 19, that there are some individuals that continue to shed the viral RNA, so that the nucleic acid of the virus, even though they are not shedding infectious virus anymore,” he told reporters.
MOH is not changing the protocol for incoming flights from Guam.
Palau requires all incoming travelers to be fully vaccinated and to show proof of negative tests.
On Sunday, more than 80 passengers arrived in Palau. Quarantine is no longer required but incoming travelers are restricted from moving around for seven days. They are not allowed to be in public places, except for essential trips to work or groceries. They are also required to wear masks.
Whipps has earlier said that Palau is protected from the virus due to its high vaccination rate, allowing the country to “open with care.”