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Marshall Islands, Pohnpei have suspected Covid-19 cases

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MAJURO — Both the Marshall Islands and Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia announced they each have one “person under investigation” or PUI for the coronavirus Covid-19.

The person in the Marshall Islands is currently being quarantined at the U.S. Army Garrison, Kwajalein Atoll, while the person in Pohnpei was similarly sequestered by government authorities while the islands await test results from off-island laboratory facilities. Authorities in both islands said specimens were dispatched March 17 for testing.

These developments follow confirmation of multiple confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Guam and Hawaii — both entry points for people traveling to these north Pacific islands.

This is the second PUI for the Marshall Islands in 10 days. The first, who arrived in Majuro two weeks ago after visiting family in the U.S. State of Washington, tested negative, according to laboratory results from Honolulu.

Marshall Islands Health Secretary Jack Niedenthal and Dr. Marcelle Gallen, chairperson of Pohnpei’s Covid-19 Task Force, both said in separate statements that neither the Marshall Islands nor Pohnpei have any confirmed Covid-19 cases.

On Tuesday night, the Marshall Islands extended its ban on all incoming international travel to the country for an additional two weeks through April 5. It also banned travel domestically between Kwajalein and Majuro on United Airlines for fear of exposure to passengers on the Island Hopper service coming from Guam or Honolulu, even though these passengers cannot get off at either destination. Travel on the domestic national airline, Air Marshall Islands, remains unrestricted, said Niedenthal in releasing the country’s 10th updated Covid-19 travel advisory Tuesday.

Marshall Islands Xavier High School students, forced to leave Chuuk  in the Federated States of Micronesia when the Jesuit-run school closed last week because of a government decision to close schools over Covid-19 concerns, returned to Majuro Monday this week on United Airlines and were immediately transported to a specially established facility for 14 days of quarantine.  Photo by Jack Niedenthal

Numerous other actions have been taken by these north Pacific islands:

• Pohnpei has instituted a 14-day quarantine requirement for any incoming passengers.

• Yap, Chuuk and Pohnpei states in the FSM have closed all schools, including the regional Jesuit-operated Xavier High School in Chuuk. Xavier’s closure required sending students home to many U.S.-affiliated islands and directly into Covid-19 quarantine. On arrival in Majuro Monday night, 18 Xavier students were placed in immediate quarantine at a just-opened specially established isolation facility at the College of the Marshall Islands rural campus.

• Yap announced Tuesday that in addition to school closures, it was halting on March 18 all work by government employees, except those in essential jobs including the hospital, police and port workers.

• The Marshall Islands is so far keeping public schools open. But Niedenthal said this could change depending on the outcome of laboratory testing for the currently quarantined PUI at Kwajalein.

• Both the Marshall Islands and Pohnpei have banned international travel by government employees.

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