Samoa remains COVID-19 free to date, alongside Pacific neighbours Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, Tuvalu, Nauru, FSM, Palau, Kiribati and Marshall Islands.
As of 08 May 2020, 6 Pacific Island countries (Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam and New Caledonia) have reported 270 cases and 7 deaths.
Samoa imposed a number of high level of restrictions as soon as New Zealand and Fiji confirmed their first cases of COVID-19. The government declared a state of emergency and took immediate steps to close borders, restrict public gathering numbers, and reduce movements.
Decisive actions taken by New Zealand and Australia as the main gateways to the world for Samoa, have also contributed to this positive result.
The COVID-19 (COrona VIrus Disease 2019) outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 March 2020 and as of this morning there have been 4,072,736 recorded cases and 278,685 deaths.
The global community continues to take actions to reduce and control the spread of the virus but the United States of America remains the worst hit with over 1.3 million cases and deaths predicted to pass the 80,000 mark this weekend.
Pacific Regional Challenges Identified by SPC
COVID-19 represents a significant challenge for the Pacific region. The Pacific Community (SPC), as the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP) lead in public health, has taken all necessary measures to help address the spread of COVID-19. This includes the adoption of a response framework aimed at supporting staff well-being and business continuity while supporting an efficient regional response to the pandemic.
Which are the main risk areas for PICTs?
- In most of the PICTs, access to quality health services is limited, due to a lack of infrastructure, equipment, and qualified personnel. In the current situation, this can pose a problem of access to care if the number of infected people increases.
- Most PICTs do not have the needed laboratory equipment to analyse the tests on site, which creates difficulties in identifying cases. The test samples have to be sent to other countries for analysis.
- Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) are frequented by tourists. This represents a risk due to the movement of people to and from PICTs (although restrictive measures have been put in place); and also a risk for the local economies.
The infographic above shows the last places on Earth that remain unaffected, based on countries that have not reported any known COVID-19 cases and that remained absent from the extensive global tracking carried out by the Johns Hopkins University, as of 04 May 2020.
There are certainly question marks regarding the true situation in some countries, particularly North Korea, with sources in South Korea claiming COVID-19 has indeed spread there via the Chinese border. Due to the secretive nature of the government in Pyongyang and the degree of state control over the media, it is impossible to tell whether the South Korean claims are true. However, it is also not unreasonable to think that in this instance, North Korea’s isolation from the rest of the world is helping it largely avoid the pandemic.
Turkmenistan, another secretive country which is notorious for censorship, has also reported zero instances of COVID-19.
Just one country in Africa – Lesotho – is still officially free of the coronavirus.