Media 5 Feb 2021
In this week's news, the Pacific Islands Forum has voted in a new secretary general, COVID-19 vaccine support for the Pacific. Fiji deals with the aftermath of another cyclone, more RSE workers from the Pacific are expected to arrive in New Zealand, and the first New Zealand flight lands in the Cook Islands.
Former Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna has been voted the new secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum following a contested election. Puna succeeds Papua New Guinea's Dame Meg-Taylor who served in the role for six years. Also discussed during the virtual leader's forum was the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon Nanaia Mahuta who attended the forum virtually, confirmed New Zealand has earmarked $75 million of Official Development Assistance to support Pacific vaccine access.
Seasonal workers from Vanuatu are expected to return to New Zealand under the recent RSE scheme agreement, while Tonga has passed citing an inability to provide the number of quarantine facilities required once workers return home. More than 110 passengers are expected to be repatriated to Tonga on Thursday.
Four more repatriation flights have been scheduled into Samoa for the second quarter of the year with the first arriving in New Zealand on April 17 with citizens from the United States - including Hawaii and Alaska, and Europe. Passengers must negotiate quarantine arrangements with the New Zealand Government and Air New Zealand.
Tropical Cyclone Ana has left unanticipated widespread flooding and damage across Fiji. Schools are closed until Monday, five people were reported missing, and thousands remain in evacuation centres while flood waters recede. Conversely, rains from Cyclone Ana have broken the drought in the northern Cook Islands.
In further Cook Islands' news, the Government allowed a flight to arrive from New Zealand with passengers required to quarantine for up to two weeks upon landing in Rarotonga. Passengers who tested negative were allowed early release and will require follow-up testing. The next flight is expected to be quarantine-free if New Zealand maintains zero community cases.
First image: Former Cook Islands Prime Minister Mr. Henry Puna has been voted to take up the secretary-general role at PIFS
Second image: Repatriation flights scheduled into the Pacific. Source: 123RF