Panuelo: 'I cannot keep our borders closed any longer'
FSM gears up for Aug. 1 reopening of nation's borders
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
The Federated States of Micronesia prepares to ease entry restrictions and accept international travelers when it reopens the nation's borders on Aug. 1. “It has been two and a half years since our nation closed its borders. I have done everything I can to keep this country safe during this pandemic since Jan. 31, 2020," FSM President David Panuelo said. "I cannot keep our borders closed any longer. We must return to normalcy."
The president urged state governments to coordinate their safety measures with the national Covid-19 task force "toward having uniform and unified protocols across the nation, instead of being destructive, being divisive and being a needlessly dramatic faultfinder seeking political points and gain at the expense of our nation’s unity and our nation’s health.”
The FSM was among the first countries that shuttered up in March 2020 at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the process, hundreds of Micronesians were stranded abroad. Most of them have since been repatriated.
The FSM remains Covid-free, but Panuelo earlier said the border reopening was expected to eventually bring the coronavirus into the nation.
"It is the intention of the FSM national government, in line with the congressional act passed by the 22nd FSM Congress and is awaiting the president’s signature, to fully open its borders on Aug. 1 inclusive of removal of quarantines both within and outside of the nation," the FSM Information Service said in a press release.
" The only way to do that safely is if you get vaccinated. The choice is yours—but please make it the right one, and get vaccinated and get boosted, today," Panuelo said.
“We have approximately six weeks or a month and a half prior to the opening of our borders. I have been vaccinated and boosted twice," he added.
In a 2020 Covid-19 economic impact report, the U.S. Department of the Interior projected that the FSM was expected to experience a 6.9 percent decline in GDP and a loss of 1,841 jobs, reflecting an 11 percent reduction of employment levels in the FSM compared to fiscal 2019.
The president reassured the FSM citizens that "the vaccine is safe and highly effective at its mission of preventing severe disease and death.”
On July 29, 2021, the FSM government mandated a mass vaccination.
According to FSM statistics as of June, the vaccination rate for all persons aged five years and above is 71 percent; for persons aged 18 years and above is 79 percent; and for persons aged 45 and above is 100.1 percent (and the discrepancy is attributed to the nation’s vaccination rate being based on the most recent census data).
"I strongly encourage all FSM citizens to get their vaccinations and booster doses at the nearest opportunity because the vaccine is ultimately the difference between a person treating Covid-19 as if it is a minor flu versus treating Covid-19 as if it is a serious terminal disease," Panuelo said.
“I strongly encourage our state governments to have trust and confidence in the FSM national government, the FSM Covid-19 Task Force and all national government officials charged with the duty of implementing the COVID-19 protocols and guidelines, in accordance with the congressional resolution passed by the 22nd FSM Congress," Panuelo said.