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Covid-19 and Omicron News: live updates

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Covid-19 and Omicron News: live updates

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Credit…Josh Haner/The New York Times

For more than two years, as the coronavirus swept through most countries in wave after wave of infection, the virus failed to reach some of the more remote islands that dot the Pacific Ocean. Even when cases have emerged in places as remote as Antarctica, these islands – thanks to geographic isolation and strict policies – have remained mostly untouched by the pathogen.

Not anymore.

As the highly transmissible variant of Omicron spreads with unprecedented speed and infectivity in the pandemic, it has found a foothold in a number of island nations.

Some are recording their first cases spreading through the local population since the start of the pandemic. Others who have kept case numbers in the single digits for much of the pandemic are watching the spread of local outbreaks with concern.

One of the most dramatic examples is Kiribati, a collection of atolls and reef islands scattered across an area of ​​the Pacific Ocean roughly twice the size of Alaska.

The country of around 119,000 has kept its borders closed for much of the pandemic. Until recently it had only recorded two Covid cases from a returning ship in May. The crew was quarantined and no outbreaks were recorded.

But when the first international flight to enter Kiribati in 10 months arrived last week from Fiji, 36 passengers tested positive for the virus. The infection then spread to a security guard at a quarantine center and two other people, according to national broadcaster, Radio Kiribati.

From now on, Tarawa, the capital, will be closed on Monday. Most residents will only be able to leave their homes to buy food. All workplaces will be closed except those providing essential and emergency services.

In Tonga, where aid workers are rushing to deliver vital supplies after a volcanic eruption triggered a tsunami that devastated the island nation, recovery efforts have been complicated by its coronavirus-free status.

Credit…By Jugal Patel

The country has reported only one case of coronavirus throughout the pandemic, and local authorities have expressed concern over the admission of foreign aid workers who may carry the virus.

Solomon Islands also reported its first community transmissions this week. The source was a boat that arrived illegally on Ontong Java Island from Papua New Guinea carrying an infected passenger, authorities said.

“Dear Solomon Islanders, what we feared has happened,” Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said on Tuesday. “We now have community transmission of Covid-19 in Ontong Java.”

“Expect the number of infected people to increase rapidly in the days and weeks to come,” he added. “Expect some people to get seriously ill. And also expect that some people may even lose their lives.

A day later, community transmission was detected in the capital, Honiara, prompting authorities to impose a swift lockdown. On Friday, there were 169 positive cases in the country but only 56 beds available for Covid patients.

Palau also recently reported a coronavirus outbreak after nearly two years without the virus. On Friday, there were 183 active cases and more than 600 people in quarantine. The country suspended schools for two weeks and banned community gatherings.

And Samoa is considering canceling repatriation flights after a plane from Australia landed in the country carrying 10 passengers who tested positive. They are all in isolation and there is no indication yet that the virus has spread in the community.

Still, the cases represent the highest number of coronavirus cases the island nation has seen since the pandemic began. Previously, Samoa had only reported two cases in quarantine.

Covid-19 and Omicron News: live updates

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