Calls for concerted effort to safeguard Nauru from coronavirus

“Capture and contain” is the Government’s policy to minimise the infiltration of coronavirus (COVID-19) into the Nauruan community, President Lionel Aingimea said.

His Excellency said any possibility of COVID-19 will be captured at the airport upon the arrival all of passengers and contain them at the designated transit residences for observation and monitoring for any changes in body temperature and health.

President Aingimea said the overriding principle, “one death is one too many,” calls for concerted efforts to stop and contain the possibility of COVID-19 into Nauru. Of particular concern is the well-being of people with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and asthma, whose systems are especially susceptible to complications from Coronavirus.

Currently, Nauru and most other Pacific island countries send their COVID-19 samples to Melbourne, Australia for testing, a process that could take weeks from the time of the sample being taken, to putting it on a flight to Brisbane then on to Melbourne, and then wait in queue to be tested.

This will soon change for Nauru with assistance from the Government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) donating a testing machine, classed as ‘gold standard’ that will enable Nauru’s health department to test samples for COVID-19 on island. Testing on island would significantly reduce the waiting time for a sample that would otherwise have been tested in Australia.

President Aingimea thanked Taiwan as well as the Government of Australia for its financial assistance of $100,000 to support Nauru is purchasing test kits and other associated products to be used for disease prevention in the wake of COVID-19.

The President has also met with Nauruan business owners Capelle & Partner and Eigigu Supermarket in regards to food supply for the island. The business operators assure the government there is sufficient supply of everything for three months, provided there is no hoarding or panic buying. Supplies by ships remain uninterrupted and will continue their normal shipping schedule to Nauru.

The freighter plane will continue to bring essential supplies such as medicine every week.

The Government has also put forward a request to the Australian government about allowing medical evacuations from Nauru, if the need arises.

Extra spending will be met by the buffer fund which continues on from the previous administration. The fund will finance the extra personnel and services for the hospital, police, security and the airline, so the normal way of life is maintained.

As this global pandemic evolves, so is the Government’s response to measures taken to ensure the safety of the Nauru population. The airlines’ schedule will also develop as the situation changes and progresses.

Deputy Minister for Education Richard-Kyde Menke and Secretary for Education Darrina Kun will be overseeing the needs and way forward for schools in Nauru as well as plans for Nauruan students studying in Fiji. As there are currently no cases of COVID-19 in Nauru, classes will continue as normal and the situation in Fiji closely monitored with the department in communication with Nauru’s High Commission in Fiji, the schools, parents and guardians.

President Aingimea said it’s a “concerted effort,” saying Nauruans everywhere must work together to assist against COVID-19 and to look at the range of avenues and best options to address and prevent against the virus.

The President says the community response has been very positive in that “they know that now is the time to put all differences aside.”

“Naoero acting as Naoero. Dei-Naoero acting as dei-Naoero,” the President said adding that this is not the time for politics and appreciates the help from churches, the private sector, and landowners.

The President said “we must live first” and do politics later.

The hospital has stepped up efforts and staffing to manage their normal patients as well as prepare for potential COVID-19 cases.

With Australia and New Zealand now closing their borders to non-residents, it means halting the dispatch of Nauruans under the Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Program, although Nauruans under those schemes that are already in-country will not be affected.

The President reiterates the Nauru Government’s gratitude to Australia, Taiwan, and private Nauru businesses, for answering the government’s call for assistance, and just as equally thanked landowners, churches, NGOs, state-owned entities (SOEs), and all Nauruans for their cooperation in this effort.

Photo supplied Caption: Nauru President Lionel Aingimea