Micronesia sees first Covid-19 outbreak flare up, causing alarm

Last week, the Pacific Island nation likely became the last in the world to experience an outbreak of coronavirus



By AP

Published: Tue 26 Jul 2022, 1:28 PM

Last updated: Tue 26 Jul 2022, 1:29 PM

Micronesia's first outbreak of Covid-19 grew in one week to more than 1,000 cases by Tuesday, causing alarm in the Pacific Island nation.

Last week, Micronesia likely became the final nation in the world with a population of more than 100,000, to experience an outbreak of the disease, after avoiding it for 2½ years, thanks to its geographic isolation and border controls.

Health officials said cases were rapidly increasing. It reported 140 new cases on Monday, bringing the total to 1,261— a figure which includes some cases caught at the border before the outbreak.

Eight people have been hospitalised, and one older man has died, officials said.

Many top lawmakers and senior officials have caught the disease too, including Vice President Yosiwo George, who has been hospitalised, officials said. They said the vice president's condition was improving.

Camille Movick, whose family owns Fusion Restaurant in Pohnpei State, told The Associated Press that a lot of people have been posting on Facebook asking, for instance, that others stay away from their homes.

“Initially there was quite a bit of panic and worry with most people,” she said.

Her restaurant remained open, although business was slow, because many people were afraid to dine in. She said some other restaurants had closed their dining rooms, and were only offering takeaway services.

Movick added that the authorities had issued a directive, under which all people were to wear masks in public— even outdoors— and that they faced fines of $1,000 for noncompliance.

She said one positive outcome of the outbreak was that it prompted many unvaccinated people to get their shots.

She said many people suspected the virus might have been circulating before the first community case was confirmed last week, because health authorities weren't routinely testing patients for the disease.

Last year, Micronesia became one of the few countries to impose a broad mandate requiring all eligible citizens to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. The government threatened to withhold federal funds from any individuals or business owners who didn’t follow the rules.

Health officials said this week that 75 per cent of people aged 5 and over, were fully vaccinated.

Movick said that many parts of society were continuing to function as before, including many people who were working from their offices.

"We're hoping things get back to normal soon… Just like in other countries, over time, they’ve gotten over it, and lifted the restrictions," she concluded.

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