The Federated States of Micronesia, a Pacific island nation which remained one of the last countries in the world spared by Covid-19, reported on Monday a first case of contamination.
President David Panuelo conceded that this news was “alarming” for the archipelago of 100,000 inhabitants, while claiming that the infected person was under close surveillance.
“For this reason, all citizens must remain calm,” he said in a televised speech. “Don’t panic, because the situation is under control.”
He said the coronavirus had been detected in a sailor from a government ship, the “Chief Mailo”, who had been sent for repairs to the Philippines.
He added that the patient and his colleagues remained on board the boat, which is anchored in a lagoon, and is under constant surveillance. Schools, churches and shops remain open.
The Pacific island countries have been very effective in protecting themselves from the pandemic, deciding early on to close their borders, despite the very high cost of this measure for economies heavily dependent on tourism.
This very cautious approach was adopted because of the weakness of the hospital systems in these countries, and the high prevalence of obesity and heart problems among their populations.
Vanuatu, the Solomons, the Marshall Islands, Samoa, and now Micronesia, have now all reported at least one case, but none have reported local contamination on their soil.
Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu are unlikely to be affected by the coronavirus.