Freedom and fear: life in one of the few countries that Covid hasn’t touched

Petaia Nome is one of the few people in the remote Pacific island of Tuvalu who has to wear personal protective equipment (PPE).

While face masks, visors and gowns have become a common sight in most countries in the years of the pandemic, in Tuvalu – one of the very few countries to have never had a Covid case – they are rare, worn primarily by airport workers, like Nome, whose job is to offload cargo.

Nome knows that if Covid does arrive in his tiny country, about 4,000km from Australia with a population of about 12,000, it will probably be via one of the planes that brings medical supplies and food, or repatriates Tuvaluans stuck abroad.

“I love my job but now with the Covid, I feel unsafe and worried for my family at home. And I am very careful when handling cargoes, I always make sure that I follow the right procedures when taking off my PPEs,” says Nome.

“As soon as the plane leaves, all of us at the airport are tested and once the result is negative, I feel so relieved and just hurry back home to continue with my chores at home and enjoy the rest of the day.”

According to the World Health Organization, the world’s Covid-free countries are limited to North Korea and Turkmenistan – whose claims to be Covid-free are in doubt – and three Pacific island nations: Tuvalu, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia, as well as a few other island territories.

The airstrip on Funafuti – Tuvalu’s capital and main atoll – stretches along the length of the island, which is very narrow, just a few metres across at some points. When planes aren’t taking off or landing, the airstrip is used as a soccer pitch or to dry washing. Sometimes people even sleep on it when the weather is particularly hot.

But since the pandemic began part of the airstrip is totally out of bounds. The hangar, about 300m from the airport, has become a quarantine centre and is guarded by police.

“Whenever I am tasked to quarantine and the airport areas, I am always making sure that I and my other colleagues follow standard operation procedures,” said police constable Hililogo Tepou.

She believes there is always a chance the virus could arrive via planes and cargo vessels but not if frontliners take precaution measures seriously.

“In the meantime, apart from duties at the job, I cruise around the island, drinking and partying with friends and just do what I love doing. I believe Tuvalu is so lucky to be free from the virus and we should be grateful always for this," 그녀가 말했다.

Tuvalu shut its borders in early 2020 and has not reopened them since. This has given the nation time to prepare, 약으로 90% of its adult population fully vaccinated and 85% of 12-17-year-olds having received their first dose.

Two of Tuvalu’s outer islands have closed their borders to non-fully vaccinated persons from other islands, but other than this, schools and other services are running normally and people live basically normal lives.

While most Tuvaluans are happy with the government’s decision to close the country’s borders in early 2020, it has come at a cost.

전염병 이전에, there were three flights a week into Tuvalu from Fiji – on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Women who sell local handicrafts would set up tables near the airport to display necklaces, hair clips, garlands, small mats, and baskets for sale.

Anita Filigina, one of the women selling handicrafts, said she used to receive a good income from her sales.

“I still sell my handicrafts just outside my home and at the airport when there is a plane and I get less. Luckily I have another business as my husband is a fisherman,” said Filigina.

She is grateful that Tuvalu is Covid-free, particularly because big crowds of people gather at her home whenever she has a catch to sell.

“I am selling my fish to the public without worrying at all because I know everyone who comes to my place is not sick and I am thankful to government for handling the country properly,” said Filigina.

When Tuvalu closed its borders, Tuvaluans living outside the country immediately flocked to Fiji to be repatriated.

Onboard the last flight from Fiji to Tuvalu in March 2020, was De’Allande Pedro, then a Year 11 student in Fiji.

He returned to Tuvalu where he started attending the only secondary school on Funafuti.

“Looking back, I feel I have made the right decision to come back home,”그는 말했다. “My school in Fiji was locked down for almost a year.”

“I am now doing my preliminary studies at the University of the South Pacific Tuvalu campus without any worry at all because I am accessed to my courses online as everything is offered online, and I can always visit local tutors to assist me,” said Pedro.

When he’s not studying, Pedro plays rugby at the airstrip, fishes and goes riding around the island at night.

Dr Tapugao Falefou, chair of the national Covid-19 taskforce, has said that borders will remain closed “until further notice”, with the exception of a few repatriation flights, funded by the Taiwanese government, which the government is opting to run before another outbreak of Covid grips Fiji.

댓글이 닫혀 있습니다..