COVID-19: A year of coronavirus across the Pacific Islands

A person getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
A person getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Photo credit: Ministry of Health

Pacific people are no strangers to hardship.

Living on the frontlines of the climate crisis, thousands of miles from most places, it's accepted daily that life is a struggle.

Most Pacific Islanders have had to rebuild their lives multiple times, whether it be from cyclones, flooding, conflict, economic hardships or a debilitating tropical disease.

So when COVID-19 emerged as a global threat for the Pacific it was almost a case of taking a number and standing in line.

As part of our ongoing March series on a year of the pandemic in paradise, each week RNZ Pacific is reaching out to correspondents, health officials, businesspeople. civil society organisations and everyday people in the islands asking them to share their stories.

This past week we started with Pasifika here in New Zealand then looked at Papua New Guinea, The Marshall Islands and French Polynesia.

Pasifika communities fighting COVID-19 in Aotearoa New Zealand

On February 28, 2020, New Zealand's first confirmed COVID-19 case was reported to the Ministry of Health.

There was no manual on how to combat this virus, yet New Zealanders rallied to the government's call to go hard and go early setting a global standard on managing the pandemic.

So many communities were behind this success.

This included Pasifika, who have been at the centre of several community outbreaks, bravely taking on the challenge of helping to stop the virus.

Read the full article here.

Papua New Guinea deep in the pandemic trenches

A year on from the start of the pandemic, Papua New Guinea's COVID-19 numbers have recently surged.

Official records put the total number cases at just over 1300 with 14 deaths.

And although the authorities moved to close borders early, testing for the virus has been limited, suggesting the extent of the outbreak in PNG could be far worse than the case numbers suggest.

Those infected include the National Pandemic Response Controller, David Manning, as well as several MPs.

But how has the pandemic changed people's lives over the year?

Listen to this story on the Dateline Pacific podcast below.

Marshall Islands leading Pacific COVID-19 vaccination roll out

A year on from COVID-19's arrival in the Pacific, the Marshall Islands is leading the region in having its people vaccinated against the virus.

Health secretary Jack Niedenthal says it's thanks largely to the support of the United States, which has been providing the republic with the Moderna vaccine.

The programme has been so successful the Micronesian republic has withdrawn from the global COVID-19 vaccine facility Covax, aimed at providing equitable access among low-and-middle-income countries.

Read all about the Marshall Islands' vaccination journey here.

You can also listen to RNZ's chat with Marshall Islands correspondent Giff Johnson on Dateline Pacific.

French Polynesia's topsy turvy approach to COVID-19

It's almost a year since the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed in French Polynesia. It also was the first in the Pacific Islands.

Maina Sage, a member of the French National Assembly, brought the virus from Paris, triggering a sharp lockdown.

But once the virus had been eliminated, Tahiti and its island opened for tourists but saw COVID-19 spread throughout the community and infect thousands.

Now the borders have again been shut on orders from Paris.

Looking back at the past year, Walter Zweifel looked at how the pandemic unfolded in French Polynesia.

Tonga still COVID-free one year into the pandemic

This week's round up of RNZ Pacific's ongoing pandemic in paradise coverage with the Kingdom of Tonga, which is still proudly free of COVID-19.

Ministry of Health chief executive Dr Siale 'Akau'ola says like many other Pacific countries, Tonga was anxious when they heard the news about COVID-19.

But so far Tonga is one of the dwindling number of countries that has remained COVID-19 free this whole time.

Even throughout the repatriation of Tongan citizens which started in July 2020 last year.

Listen to reporter Sela Jane Hopgood speak to Dr 'Akau'ola about their efforts on the Dateline Pacific podcast below.

We continue our coverage of a year of the Pandemic in the Pacific next week starting with Fiji and Solomon Islands.

You can listen to more of RNZ's Pacific coverage on its weekly programme Tagata O Te Moana.