One island in the Pacific that managed to stay Covid-free during the pandemic is now reopening its borders. However, two-thirds of passengers on the international flight were positive for the disease.
After four additional cases outside of the quarantined area, the island of Kiribati has decided to put a lockdown in place starting Saturday.
A Fiji Airways flight from Fiji to Kiribati’s capital of South Tarawa was the first flight to land on the island in 10 months after the government reopened its borders.
But 36 of the 54 people onboard the flight were diagnosed with Covid. The government officials quickly established a quarantine unit for them all.
After officials confirmed four Covid positive cases, the government announced an island-wide lockdown starting Saturday.
Now, Kiribati will impose a lockdown starting on Saturday to prevent the spread of Covid after the discovery of four more cases that were not in the quarantined category (file image).
Following confirmation that four Covid-positive cases were not in the quarantined group, officials announced an islandwide lockdown. Photo: Map showing the location of Kiribati, a Pacific island.
Officials confirmed earlier that Tuesday’s positive test by a quarantine centre security guard had occurred and that two of his closest contacts in Bouta village were quarantined. Two more cases of positive were also detected within the community Thursday.
But the government confirmed today in a statement that a fourth Covid case has emerged.
Kiribati’s lockdown and curfew will take effect from Saturday. People won’t be able to leave their home unless they are essential to work or access emergency services. Schools are also shut down.
The government of Kiribati stated that all of the Fijian arrivals had been kept in quarantine for 2 weeks prior to their departure. They also underwent Covid testing, raising questions as to how the virus was contracted. All passengers were vaccinated.
Kiribati locals expressed concerns that the virus might now be affecting the island.
“As parents, our concern is for our children, because they have not been vaccinated, and don’t have access to it. [a vaccine]Kareaua Nawaia 32, who is a teacher on the island and a father of three, spoke to The Guardian.
Dr Tabutoa Eria expressed concern over the delay in imposition of the lockdown by writing to Facebook: “It might [be] too late if you [the lockdown]Next week. Please avoid any unnecessary movement of our beloved and beautiful people. If we do not, virus will not move.
Kiribati government declared last month 93.4 percent of people over 18 have had one dose, but 53.1 percent were double-jabbed.
Today the government encouraged people to get vaccinated.
The Government calls on elders and leaders of the church, islands councils, communities and youth to support us in this challenging and difficult time.
“Complete vaccination is the only way to fight this virus. Therefore, we urge everyone to get their vaccines. To combat this pandemic, it is crucial that we all cooperate and have trust in each other.
Many remote islands, including Kiribati, have adopted ‘zero Covid” policies that prohibit travel.
But Andrew Preston, a professor of microbial pathogenesis at the University of Bath, said that zero-Covid strategies are unsustainable.
He stated to CNBC that maintaining zero Covid while high immunity was built through vaccination is the scenario in which zero Covid has credibility.
“However it has been difficult for many countries to achieve a high level of vaccination to keep an import case from spreading, and with the possibility of omicron being able to reinfect or infect people vaccinated, it seems to be a nonstarter as long-term policies.