Aussie neighbour Kiribati plunged into lockdown after first ever local Covid cases

·Associate News Editor

Australia's Pacific neighbour Kiribati has been plunged into a Covid-19 lockdown for the first time, over two years since the global pandemic began.

The small island nation with a population of about 120,000 people had managed to avoid the virus in the community with tight border controls which have only now begun to ease.

However a chartered flight from Fiji this week brought Covid into the country, with dozens of infected passengers taken to a quarantine facility. On Friday four cases unlinked to the flight were confirmed.

Radio Kiribati said on January 17 it had been reported the flight from Fiji was chartered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The island nation has managed to avoid Covid from making land until now. Source: Getty
The island nation has managed to avoid Covid from making land until now. Source: Getty

"There is now an assumption that COVID-19 is now spreading in the community on South Tarawa and Betio," the government wrote on Facebook.

A lockdown was implemented for South Tarawa and Betio on Saturday with little clarity on when it will end.

Residents are only allowed to go out for essential trips, such as to acquire food, or for emergency services. Essential businesses in the private sector, such as businesses that provide food, will only be allowed to be open from 6am to 2pm.

Its only previous cases had been on a fishing vessel, which never set foot on land while infectious.

Samoans sent into snap lockdown

Samoa, which had previously only recorded two cases, has also gone into lockdown after new exposure from a flight from Brisbane, which has led to at least 15 imported cases.

It's lockdown is scheduled to end on Monday. Residents must stay at home and off roads with all businesses closed.

Frontline workers pictured at the beginning of the pandemic in Samoa. Source: ADB
Frontline workers pictured at the beginning of the pandemic in Samoa. Source: ADB

About 62 per cent of Samoa's population is fully vaccinated, while about 34 per cent of Kiribati's population is double-jabbed, according to WHO data.

Agafili Tomaimano Shem Leo, the chairman of the National Emergency Operation Center, said the emergence of cases was the "day dreaded" by health authorities.

"Our country is in a national emergency and our security is under siege from COVID-19," he said.

With AFP

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