Aileen Torrest-Bennett / AFP by Getty Images
After the South Pacific nation, Tonga’s main island has gone into a week-long lockdown. Last weekend reported its first epidemic of COVID-19..
The cowardly positive passenger, who has been fully vaccinated and showed no symptoms, arrived in Tonga on a flight from Christchurch, New Zealand, last Wednesday. All 214 other people on board the test tested negative and the affected passenger, A young missionary, Is currently in quarantine at a facility.
“So far, we are very happy that nothing more has happened than this one case,” Dr. William Ploca told NPR from his home in Nokulova, Tonga’s capital. The retired general practitioner and public health expert said it was only a matter of time before the virus reached them.
“I think in general, people understand what is happening and it is expected that at some point, as long as the virus is everywhere, the virus is everywhere,” he said.
Under the lockdown, which begins at midnight on Tuesday, schools, bars and restaurants will be closed for a week and a curfew will be imposed on the island of Tongatapo, where the majority of Tonga’s population lives. People will only be able to leave their homes for essential activities, such as grocery, medicine or banking.
Poloka said that although the virus was unlikely to spread to a wider community, the community seems to be working to prevent it from spreading. Confirmed case has increased the rush for vaccination, According to local media.
“I think it was just a kind of frustration because they were waiting to open the border and accept people from outside, but that’s what happened,” Ploca said.
The threat of a world shutdown
The nations and territories of the small islands of the Pacific Ocean have been spared the worst of epidemics because of their ability to isolate themselves from the rest of the world.
Ploca said that if the COVID-19 epidemic spreads in Tonga, which is located in a cluster of islands about 500 miles southeast of Fiji, its limited resources and natural isolation would “cause a major catastrophe.” I don’t think we can really deal with that. “
Yet Closing long-term borders for countries that are economically dependent on commodity exports and tourism. There is a clear irony of the epidemic: those who have managed to keep the epidemic at bay may be one of the last to recover from it.
A policy brief from the Louis Institute in Australia It was warned last year that countries and regions across the Pacific were facing potential “lost decades” and permanent economic shocks due to the economic and social damage caused by epidemics.
A year later, the region’s outlook is largely the same, says Roland Raja, a leading economist at the Louis Institute.
“Economically, recovery in the Pacific has been slow, while the rest of the world is bouncing back,” he told NPR.
This is due to the slow return of tourism in some countries and regions of the Pacific. While others, such as Papua New Guinea – the region’s largest economy and country dependent on commodity exports – are more overwhelmed by COVID-19 than last year, Raja said.
And while vaccination rates are good in the region as a whole, Raja says the light at the end of the tunnel is “not really clean.”
“I think at the moment, the Pacific seems to be the most likely to join the slowest, if not the slowest, region to get out of this crisis,” he said.
When will the world be able to reopen?
Some countries in the Pacific, including 2.3 million people spread over about 15% of the world, have sought to balance their economic needs with those of their people.
French Polynesia is one of them. There is tourism. The main economic driver of the French overseas And Authorities have estimated the damage from the epidemic at about 2 1.2 billion. International tourism stalled.
AFP via Victor Bonito / Reef Explorer Fiji / Getty
After initially closing its borders in March 2020, French Polynesia, which includes the popular tourist islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora, has since opened and closed its borders a handful. The area is also an exception for French citizens and locals. Like politiciansGuillaume Columbine, a longtime tourist in Tahiti, says to travel in and out.
Still, he says the tourism sector has suffered greatly since the onset of the epidemic.
Paris controls the borders. Columbine says that whenever they are opened, the people there are “very frightened”. In French Polynesia, there have been more than 45,000 cases, 19 cases and 636 deaths.
This attempt to strike a balance did not convince many, like Columbine, that “whatever decisions were made or made were very good for us.”