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Pacific's Micronesia records first COVID-19 case

Pacific's Micronesia records first COVID-19 case

In this Aug 5, 2019, file photo, a plane carrying United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes its approach to Pohnpei International Airport in Kolonia, Federated States of Micronesia. (File photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

PALIKIR, Federated States of Micronesia: The remote Pacific nation of Micronesia recorded its first case of COVID-19 on Monday (Jan 11), ending its run as one of the few places on the planet without the coronavirus.

President David Panuelo acknowledged the development was "alarming" for the country's 100,000 inhabitants, but said the case had been contained at the border.

"For this reason, citizens across the nation should remain calm," he said in a televised address.

"Do not panic because the situation is contained."

Panuelo said the positive test came from a crewman on board a government ship named the Chief Mailo, which had been in the Philippines undergoing repairs.

He said the man and his colleagues remained on the vessel, which was anchored in a lagoon under round-the-clock surveillance.

"We remain in what we call COVID condition four, which means that schools, churches and businesses of all kinds are still open," he added.

READ: COVID-19 pandemic reaches Antarctica, last untouched continent

Far-flung Pacific island nations have been among the most successful in the world at keeping out the virus after closing their borders early in response to the threat, despite the huge cost to tourism-reliant economies.

Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, the Marshall Islands, Samoa and now Micronesia have lost their virus-free status, although none have so far reported community transmission.

The island nations of Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Tonga and Tuvalu are believed to still be free of COVID-19.

The cautious approach adopted in the Pacific islands was prompted by fears that they are particularly vulnerable because of poor hospital infrastructure and high rates of underlying health conditions such as obesity and heart disease.

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Source: AFP/kg

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