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The president of the Federated States of Micronesia has said the country’s first case of Covid-19 – detected in a sailor on board a ship held in an island lagoon – does not pose a threat to the wider community.

David Panuelo’s government announced last week that a lone sailor on board the government ship, MV Chief Mailo, had tested positive to the coronavirus after returning from the Philippines.

In a nationally televised address broadcast this week, Panuelo said the crew was permitted to return to the country after being tested for the virus, and because they feared piracy

“The crew was rightly fearful of increasing numbers of pirates in the region which contributed to their fears. So I could either abandon the ship that the government uses to service the state of Chuuk and leave its crew and the 12 year-old boy from Poluwat outside of our care or I could bring them home.”

Panuelo said the single case had been successfully quarantined, with the ship held in Pohnpei lagoon under guard.

“Citizens across the nation should remain calm… do not panic because the situation is contained.

“The individual with Covid-19 on the Chief Mailo does not present any immediate risk of the virus spreading to the broader community in Pohnpei,” he said.






The central business district of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Oceania, South Pacific Ocean. Photograph: Dmitry Malov/Alamy

The Federated States of Micronesia have recorded zero cases of Covid-19 before this case.

Schools, churches and business remain open and there is no mandated requirement to wear masks in the archipelago, though it is encouraged, along with social distancing.

Already, FSM has received 9000 doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine from the United States, with which it has a compact of free association. An inoculation program for the 100,000-strong population has already begun.

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-dependent economies.

Several island nations which were virus-free have lost that status recently with Solomon Islands, the Marshall Islands, Samoa and Vanuatu falling to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world.

However, several other island countries including Tonga, Palau, Nauru and Kiribati are believed to remain virus-free.

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