Yap preparing for repatriation of the state's stranded residents


The Yap state goverment encourages the island's residents to get their vaccine shots. Photo by Joyce McClure


Colonia, Yap-- A technical team will arrive in Yap on April 28 to assess the state’s level of preparedness to handle Covid-19, focusing on repatriation readiness.


The Yap Department of Health Services and the state’s Covid-19 Taskforce have received confirmation about the team's arrival from the FSM National Covid-19 Taskforce.


The assessment supports “recommendations for repatriation efforts, informs decision-makers, and enables stakeholders to focus their capacity-building efforts based on any gaps, weaknesses, or critical areas for improvement.”


The technical team will evaluate the entire process from disembarkation of passengers from aircraft to screening, quarantine, isolation and release from quarantine of passengers coming from coronavirus-stricken jurisdictions.

The exercise is designed as a practical means to test Yap’s state of preparedness and determine if they are ready to safely bring home citizens who are stranded abroad, or, at a minimum, have the ability to respond and contain any possible importation of the coronavirus.


While more than 300 citizens await repatriation into the FSM, the National Covid Task Force began running simulation and tabletop exercises in June 2020 to prepare for their arrival.

Yap's Covid isolation facility. Photo by Joyce McClore.

Beginning with Pohnpei, President David Panuelo instructed the national government to conduct “a series of exercises to assess and simulate [the state’s] capacity and procedures for what do when the Nation’s citizens [who are] stranded abroad are allowed to be repatriated.”


The assessment begins with point-of-entry, quarantine and isolation areas on the island using standardized forms, interviews and data-gathering and analysis.


The team then reviews the assessments and develops a table including actions that must be taken, timelines for completion, and those individuals responsible for the designated actions.


Tabletop exercises are then conducted by the visiting team.


Yap has been conducting ongoing tabletop training exercises for medical, port-of-entry, immigration and customs, and other stakeholders during the past year on various aspects of Covid preparedness.


During Pohnpei’s exercise, a tabletop simulation addressed how the national and state governments would respond if a commercial air carrier arrived with repatriating citizens, with at least one of the individuals showing signs consistent with Covid during the flight.


In Yap, as in each state, a live simulation will also be conducted with the agencies involved playing out their real-life roles.


In Pohnpei, a bus acted as a commercial flight with port, immigration, customs, quarantine, and health officials responding as if the bus’s passengers were coming from Covid-19 infected areas.


The scenario included several potential real-life encounters, such as how to effectively address an individual showing Covid-19 symptoms, and how to brief passengers at the state’s designated quarantine facility on what will happen during the period of quarantine.


As a result of that exercise and the subsequent strengthening during the intervening months of Pohnpei’s preparedness, stranded medical patients, attendants, students and diplomats assigned in Pohnpei will be flown in on May 13 via a humanitarian assistance flight paid for by the U.S. Embassy in Kolonia in collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard.


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A 14-day pre-quarantine and two negative Covid-19 tests, “without modifications or exceptions to these requirements,” remain in place by the FSM for all returning residents.


Access and visitation to the pre-quarantine and quarantine facilities are rigorously restricted and managed by trained personnel.


Panuelo also agreed with the FSM task force’s additional recommendation that repatriating residents be required to be fully vaccinated against the virus, with limited exceptions.


In a press release dated April 5, Panuelo said, “We are committed to May 13th as our first repatriation activity from a Covid-19 affected jurisdiction. I emphasize again that it is a very serious responsibility upon our nation’s citizens to ensure that you get vaccinated at the nearest possible opportunity."


Panuelo mandated that all frontliners be fully vaccinated. This mandate applies to doctors, nurses, customs, immigration, quarantine and police officers, and transportation workers, who may come into contact with repatriating residents.


The president also encouraged state governments to follow suit "so as to help ensure that we have as airtight a repatriation regime as possible. This can make or break our nation’s overall health and safety if we don’t take the personal responsibility to get vaccinated.”


As of April 21, among Yap’s 15 port-of-entry agencies, nine had had 100 percent of their workers vaccinated. Only 38 percent of Yap State Police officers had been vaccinated compared to 67 percent of FSM National Police members.


Yap is urging all public safety and port-of-entry workers to get vaccinated since they face the highest risk of getting Covid19 once the border is open.

No date has been announced for the opening of Yap’s border.



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