Kiribati island, Covid-free during whole pandemic, hit by virus after first flight lands

22 January 2022, 07:21 | Updated: 22 January 2022, 07:32

Kiribati has been forced to impose a lockdown
Kiribati has been forced to impose a lockdown. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

The tiny island nation of Kiribati, which managed to stay Covid free for the entire pandemic, has finally reopened its borders only for two thirds of passengers on the first flight to test positive for the virus.

The island of Kiribati will now impose its first lockdown from Saturday in an attempt to stop the spread of Covid, after four further cases emerged outside the quarantined group.

Fifty-four passengers were on board the flight which arrived last Friday. Thirty-six were diagnosed with Covid, prompting government authorities to quickly set up a quarantine facility.

Kiribati will be placed under a curfew and a lockdown. The island's population will be unable to leave their homes unless it is for essential work or to access the emergency services. Schools will also be closed. 

Kareaua Nawaia, 32, a school teacher and father-of-three, told The Guardian: "As parents, we are worried about our children because unlike us, they are unvaccinated and have no access to one [a vaccine] on the island."

Dr Tabutoa Eria posted on Facebook: "It might [be] too late if you [the lockdown] come next week.

"Our beloved n beautiful people please avoid unnecessary movements. Virus won't move if we don't."

The government of Kiribati said last month that 93.4 per cent of the population aged 18 and over has had one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine but only 53.1 per cent were double-jabbed. 

Until last week, Kiribati had recorded just two Covid cases.

Kiribati is one of the most isolated islands in the world. It is around 5,000km (3,100 miles) from North America.

The island's government said in a post on Facebook that all passengers from the flight are currently being monitored by health officials.

"The only way that we can fight this virus is through complete vaccination," the office of President Taneti Maamau said on Facebook.

"The public is urged to complete their vaccination doses in order to protect themselves and families."

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