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FSM to Join World Health Organization’s Executive Board; Direct Repatriation Flights to Chuuk State to Begin November 10th; FSM Receives COVID-19 Medicine “Regeneron”; President Panuelo Approves Direct Charters by Sea & Air for Vital & China
PALIKIR, Pohnpei—The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) will become a member of the World Health Organization’s Executive Board next year, representing the Asia-Pacific Region. The FSM’s membership in the Executive Board will last for three years, and as a member of the Board the FSM will assist in implementing the decisions and policies of the World Health Assembly.
“I would like to extend our Nation’s appreciation to the other Pacific Island Countries for their support, notably the People and Government of the Republic of Fiji,” His Excellency David W. Panuelo, President of the FSM, said in a statement, “And, particularly, my good friend Prime Minister Bainimarama, for withdrawing their candidature in support of the FSM. This is a gesture of Pacific goodwill that we will not forget, and I give my categorical guarantee to Fiji, and all countries and peoples of the Pacific, that the FSM will represent all of our collective interests in the Executive Board of the WHO.”
The FSM COVID-19 Task Force has approved the State of Chuuk’s request for its first direct repatriation flight from an international commercial carrier to occur on November 10th, 2021. Consistent with the State of Yap’s first repatriation flight, the initial group of repatriating citizens will consist exclusively of vaccinated persons, and future flights will include unvaccinated persons who are exempt from taking the COVID-19 vaccine (e.g. young children).
As of October 29th, 2021, a team of medical professionals from the Department of Heath & Social Affairs are in Chuuk to help ensure that the first repatriation there is successful.
The next repatriation flight into Pohnpei State is November 3rd, 2021. The most recent repatriation flights to the States of Yap and Kosrae were on October 24th and 25th. Future repatriation dates for the States of Pohnpei, Yap, and Kosrae have not yet been scheduled, but it would be consistent with previously scheduled flights for the next round of repatriation activities to occur on or around the final week of November, 2021.
On the premise of seeking to avoid employee burnout, the FSM COVID-19 Task Force and President Panuelo are considering a temporary halt to formal repatriation flights in December 2021 and early January 2022. Medical personnel in the States of Yap, Pohnpei, and Kosrae report long hours, and the FSM Consulate in Guam reports 18-hour days seven-days-per-week, which, aside from human rights concerns, poses a security risk to the Nation if staff are overburdened and exhausted.
The State of Yap has recently received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which is used for vaccinating adolescents aged between 12-17 years. At present, only the States of Yap and Kosrae have received this vaccine, but the FSM National Government expects the States of Chuuk and Pohnpei to receive the Pfizer vaccine in the coming weeks and months. Significant quantities of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines remain available for eligible adults.
Approximately 72% of the Nation’s population of adults aged between 18 and 99 years have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Approximately 85% of adults aged between 45 and 99 years have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The FSM has received a stockpile of the REGEN-COV “Regeneron” COVID-19 medicine from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, which is presently being prepositioned in each state hospital. Regeneron is a treatment for patients who are diagnosed with COVID-19. Treatment of patients early in the course of infection, and who are at risk of severe COVID-19, reduces the incidence of hospitalization or death by 70%. The Regeneron medicine consists of two monoclonal antibodies directed against the spike protein of Coronavirus. Use of Regeneron does not replace vaccination against COVID-19, which remains mandatory for all FSM citizens residing in the FSM.
FSM Petroleum Corporation/Vital has recently briefed the FSM COVID-19 Task Force on an array of overdue work, including API653 inspections, aviation upgrades, tank upgrades, facility upgrades, JIG inspections, pipeline inspections, firefighting upgrades, and the completion of the Integrated Coconut Processing Facility on Tonoas, which His Excellency David W. Panuelo has frequently described as the Nation’s most promising development project. Vital proposed that it would charter a cruise ship, with the Republic of Fiji as the point of discharge, as a means of ensuring approximately twenty (20) essential workers for these purposes arrive into the FSM. All requirements per the Declaration of Public Health Emergency and the COVID-19 Task Force would be adhered to.
The FSM COVID-19 Task Force approved the request, which was confirmed by President Panuelo. The Government expects the cruise ship with Vital’s essential workers to arrive in the FSM in approximately three months.
Additionally, there are two more groups of essential workers whose entry into the Nation the Government is seeking to expedite. One group is a list of essential workers as determined by the Department of Transportation, Communications, & Infrastructure, including electricians, plumbers, engineers, and other skilled workers who will assist in the completion of numerous development projects around the FSM. Another group is a list of essential workers as determined by the FSM National Government and the Government of China, whose entry into the Nation is essential for the purpose of completing projects such as the National Convention Center in Palikir and renovations to the Pohnpei State Government Complex.
The FSM COVID-19 Task Force has approved the expedited entry of these groups, which were confirmed by President Panuelo, though arrival dates for these groups is to be determined. It is likely that the group of essential workers hired by the National and State Governments will arrive via an international commercial carrier, and likely that the group of essential workers providing assistance though the FSM-China Great Friendship will arrive via a direct charter flight from China.
Two (2) persons on the October 24th repatriation flight to Yap, and two (2) persons on the October 25th flight to Kosrae, were shown as positive on a PCR-based COVID-19 test but were later determined to be non-infectious and historical cases. As of October 29th, 2021, the FSM remains COVID-19 free.