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Panic buying hits Marshall Islands amid Covid spike

By Sylvester Kajur

Majuro- Hawaii-based businesses have reported a huge uptick in sales and requests from the Marshall Islands since the Covid-19 outbreak last week. Besides Covid-19 test kits and masks, the most common items being requested are thermometers, Tylenol, cough medicine and hand sanitizers.

Restaurants are placing huge orders for hand sanitizers. The College of the Marshall Islands has requested thermometers and the general public is stocking up on their home medicines. "Majuro is going nuts," said a Marshallese business owner based in Honolulu, who requested anonymity. ‘They’ve had two years of Covid funding from the U.S. and time to prepare. Now they’re running around like headless chickens," the businessman said. Two workers in Micronesia Mart, a local Micronesian supermarket, have had requests from friends and family members to send supplies. One told the Pacific Island Times she’s making a package for her family in Uliga. "It’s scary for everyone, but the world is now living with Covid. So they’ll have to find a way but, of course, I’ll help.’ Health Secretary Jack Niedenthal took to Facebook last night in an attempt to calm people down. "What we are seeing here in Majuro is not unlike all of the other countries. Long lines, chaos, people arguing with each other, panic, unhappiness, disorganization, huge amounts of stress that cause even family and friends to argue with each other," he said. "The good news is this won’t last forever." The Marshall Islands listed 189 cases as of Aug. 10 with sev hospitalizations. The first case was also identified on Ebeye and people on other islands are now experiencing symptoms, too. The government now believes that Covid was circulating in the community for at least a week before the first cases were identified. Ministers are urging people to get tested at one of the designated sites.

The Marshallese can order Covid tests online from just like in the United States, however, many are now reverting to Amazon and other companies like Suka Pacific for a quicker turnaround. But it isn’t just Hawaiian companies. Pohnpei sent 500 doses of PaxLovid last night. Also on the way are reinforcements of people from CDC and ASPR and 2000 more boxes of PaxLovid. In another sign of panic, the government has suspended the August repatriation flight from Honolulu until the end of the month or early September. In an email obtained by The Pacific Island Times, the RMI’s Safe Travel Program informed passengers they are "stretched out thin" and "would like to minimize the impact of the virus until we get over the epicurve." The government hopes to bring in essential workers when the flight is rescheduled and a lockdown seems unlikely. As Niedenthal put it, "lockdowns with this Omicron BA.5 variant do not work. We know this, both historical and scientific evidence support this."

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