TESS NEWTON CAIN AND DAN MCGARRY |
There are now more than 220 confirmed cases across the Pacific Islands region (excluding Australia and New Zealand) and six deaths.
This week brought into sharp relief the true nature of vulnerability and risk in the Pacific Islands region as Tropical Cyclone Harold left death and destruction in its wake. In Solomon Islands, more than 20 people were feared dead after being swept off a boat that was transporting passengers from Honiara to Malaita following a government instruction that everyone in the capital who could go home should do so.
As the cyclone intensified and headed to Vanuatu, the government relaxed its Covid-19 state of emergency measures, which restrict gatherings to no more than five people, to allow people to shelter together in mass evacuation centres.
As the enormity of the economic impact of the pandemic became clear the World Bank announced a $US14bn finance package for east Asia and the Pacific to support their Covid-19 response. This follows Asian Development Bank predictions of significant economic contraction across the region, particularly in tourism-reliant countries.
The foreign ministers of the nations that make up the Pacific Islands Forum held an online meeting on Tuesday to discuss a regional response to Covid-19, including how to work with development partners to create a “humanitarian corridor” to get urgent supplies into countries that have effectively closed their borders.