Koror (Palaos) (AFP)
The remote Pacific nation of Micronesia recorded its first case of Covid-19 on Monday, ending its run as one of the few places on Earth without coronavirus.
President David Panuelo acknowledged the development was “alarming” for the country’s 100,000 inhabitants, but said the case had been contained at the border.
“For this reason, citizens across the country must remain calm,” he said in a televised speech.
“Don’t panic because the situation is contained. ”
Panuelo said the positive test came from a crew member of a government ship “Chief Mailo”, which had been in the Philippines for repairs.
He said the man and his colleagues remained on the ship, which was anchored in a lagoon under 24-hour surveillance.
“We are staying in what we call Covid-condition-four, which means schools, churches and businesses of all kinds are still open,” he added.
Remote Pacific island nations have been among the most successful in the world at preventing the virus from entering after closing their borders early in response to the threat, despite the enormous cost to economies dependent on tourism.
Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, the Marshall Islands, Samoa and now Micronesia have lost their virus-free status, although none have so far reported community transmission.
The island nations and territories of Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Tonga and Tuvalu are still believed to be free from the coronavirus.
The cautious approach taken in the Pacific Islands was motivated by fears of being particularly vulnerable due to poor hospital infrastructure and high rates of underlying health problems such as obesity and heart disease.
© 2021 AFP