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Covid-free Pacific Nations Set to Ease Border Restrictions

One of the world’s last Covid-free countries has set a date to reopen its borders for the first time since the pandemic began, while another is poised to loosen its hardline restrictions.

The governments of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Marshall Islands both say they are prepared for negative consequences, but concede they must transition away from maintaining strict border protocols.

FSM President David Panuelo said he hoped setting a date of August 1 for opening up would encourage his population of just over 100,000, spread across more than 600 islands, to maximise its vaccination coverage.

“Choosing to open the nation’s borders on 1 August is equivalent to purposefully choosing to introduce Covid-19 into the FSM shortly thereafter,” he said in a statement on Friday (May 20). “Thus, it is essential that the decision be made so the nation transitions from Covid-19 free to Covid-19 protected.”

The Marshall Islands, with one of the world’s strictest border regimes, are set to reduce the quarantine period for visitors to 10 days next month.

“I don’t believe it’s realistic and sustainable to keep the status quo,” government Chief Secretary Kino Kabua said. “We really should now be talking about what the impacts will be when there is introduction of the virus into the community, and the ways to cope and move forward.”

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