Holidays in Bali, Fiji suspended as COVID ravages the Pacific
Dreams of a potential travel bubble with popular Pacific countries like Fiji appear to be fading amid a worrying rise in COVID infections.
But there is one island country that has so far avoided a deadly wave and is preparing to welcome tourists from Australia – Samoa.
Since the start of the pandemic, Samoa has not recorded any cases of locally acquired coronavirus and has administered at least one dose of AstraZeneca to more than 33% of its population.
Like the recent travel bubble created between New Zealand and the Cook Islands, the Polynesian nation hopes to make an arrangement with Australia.
But there is a catch.
Samoa has decided that from July 1, all travelers entering the island must be fully immunized before arriving.
“We look forward to welcoming vaccinated visitors with open arms when the time is right for all affected countries,” said Faamatuainu Lenata’i Suifua, CEO of Samoa Tourism Authority.
As Samoa prepares to capitalize on its COVID-zero status, other countries in the Pacific have not been so fortunate.
For months, it emerged that picturesque Fiji had escaped the worst of the pandemic, recording very few cases and two deaths.
It was until April, when the Delta variant arrived and unleashed an aggressive second wave.
Now, the country of less than one million people has recorded 42 deaths and a peak of 791 new infections in one day, according to data released Wednesday evening.
“The number of daily cases is expected to continue to rise, along with an increase in the number of people with COVID-19 requiring hospitalization and, unfortunately, more deaths,” the health ministry said.
Despite the rise in infections, the government has so far resisted calls for a strict lockdown and urged people to stay at home instead.
But in a country that depends heavily on tourism, that’s easier to say.
Fijian police have delivered groceries to homes, but some do not receive deliveries early enough.
Many children survive on sugar and water because their parents can no longer afford to feed them, CEO of Save the Children Fiji Shairana Ali said.
“Many families employed in ‘non-essential’ services have exhausted their savings as the blockages impacted their ability to work,” Ms. Ali said.
Australia sent 1.3 tonnes of personal protective equipment and medical supplies to Fiji, including 500 heat guns for screening teams and testing equipment.
Last month, the Morrison government delivered an additional 50,000 doses of AstraZeneca and announced it would send a medical team to help fight the outbreak.
The situation in Indonesia is becoming increasingly dire, with human rights organizations warning that the country is “on the brink of disaster”.
The nation of 270 million people has recorded more than 2.2 million cases and 60,000 deaths and cases have risen from 2,300 per day in May to more than 27,000 this week, with 555 deaths reported in Sunday alone. .
In response to the unfolding disaster, Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced wednesday that Australia would supply $ 12 million in medical equipment, including 1,000 ventilators, up to 700 oxygen concentrators and more than 170 oxygen cylinders.
Australia will also provide more than 40,000 rapid antigen test kits and 2.5 million doses of AstraZeneca in the coming months.