Covid-19 Update Report for July 31, 2022

Below are additional updates for today, July 31st, 2022.

  1. Officials at the Office of the President describe that Vice President Yosiwo P. George, while released from hospital and negative for COVID-19, is showing signs of being weaker today than in previous days. 
  1. President David W. Panuelo has signed a decree on social distancing and other precautionary measures to address ongoing community transmission of the COVID-19 cases in the FSM. The decree comes into effect on August 1st, 2022. The President’s decree describes that there shall be no lockdown of any FSM State; that persons are advised to stay home unless it is essential for them to leave their house, such as to go to work or to buy food and supplies; that everyone must wear a facemask when in a public place; that everyone is required to observe proper hygiene, and to avoid large crowds to the extent feasible; and that persons who are tested positive for COVID-19, or demonstrate flu-like symptoms, must stay at home. I do not have access to the original copy of the decree, nor do I have access to a photocopy of it, either; what I have been given after several requests is a photograph of the signed decree. I have attached the photograph of the decree to this email. When I possess a cleaner version of the decree, I will disseminate it.
  1. President David W. Panuelo met with his cabinet this afternoon to discuss the request from Chuuk State Government to limit the number of incoming flights to Chuuk, and to limit the number of disembarking passengers, for the months of August, September, and October. In that meeting, the President decided that flights that result in the disembarkation of passengers into Chuuk State should occur on August 1st, August 2nd, August 15th, and August 22nd. The President further discussed with his cabinet that persons arriving into Chuuk State should be escorted to the former quarantine site to be tested again for COVID-19; if positive, a person would isolate for five days; if negative, a person would be allowed entry into the broader community. Finally, the President was advised by his cabinet that their view is that Chuuk State has the capacity to receive approximately 50 people per flight.

At the same time President Panuelo was meeting with his cabinet, the Chuuk State COVID-19 Task Force was meeting in preparation for August 1st, 2022, and in anticipation of a response from President Panuelo. After the conclusion of President Panuelo’s meeting with his cabinet, the Secretary of Justice and the Secretary of Health & Social Affairs met with the Governor of Chuuk State, Alexander R. Narruhn, to discuss the President’s intended course of action moving forward. While appreciative of President Panuelo’s keenness to accommodate Chuuk State’s request, Governor Narruhn described that Chuuk State will require 14 days of quarantine for incoming passengers, so as to attempt to ensure that Chuuk remains COVID-19 free until November 1st, 2022. This is consistent with a Joint Resolution passed by Chuuk State’s Legislative Branch (by both its House of Senate and its House of Representatives) on July 30th, 2022, which declared a State of Emergency.

Following the meeting between Governor Alexander R. Narruhn, the FSM Secretary of Justice, and the FSM Secretary of Health & Social Affairs, Chuuk State Government relayed a communication to President David W. Panuelo requesting that Chuuk be allowed to accept flights on August 1st (for 23 confirmed passengers from Guam); on August 2nd (for 3 confirmed passengers from Hawaii and 25 from Pohnpei State); on August 4th (for 58 passengers from Pohnpei State); and on August 22nd (whose number of passengers would be communicated at a later date and time).

After receiving the letter from Governor Alexander R. Narruhn and digesting its contents, President David W. Panuelo held another meeting with his cabinet from approximately 8:35pm to 9:50pm Guam Time. The purpose of the meeting was to review proposed communications to international commercial carriers regarding the opening of borders on August 1st, as well to review the requested flight dates from Governor Narruhn. After much thoughtful dialectic, President Panuelo determined that the FSM Government will accept Chuuk State’s request to implement 14 days of quarantine for incoming persons; that the FSM Government will accept Chuuk State’s requested dates for flights in August; and that the FSM Government will accept Chuuk State’s requested number of passengers, with the exception of August 1st and August 2nd. In the event there are more than 23 passengers for August 1st originating in Guam, and in the event there are more than 3 passengers for August 2nd originating in Hawaii, the FSM Government will allow all persons scheduled to travel to Chuuk to disembark there.

Following this series of meetings and communications, the ultimate agreement between the FSM Government and Chuuk State Government regarding Chuuk State’s request is that all persons currently destined for Chuuk State on August 1st and August 2nd will be allowed to disembark there. The FSM Government accepts Chuuk State’s request for flights to occur on August 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 22nd, and not additional dates this month. Persons traveling to Chuuk can expect to be subjected to state-mandated quarantine for a period of up to 14 days. The FSM Government and Chuuk State Government are working to prepare a formal joint release on this issue, complete with quotations attributable to President David W. Panuelo and Governor Alexander R. Narruhn.

     I have been provided a Chuukese translation of the above from Chuuk State’s PRO, which is included below.

Mwirin ekkewe mwiich me poróus neefinen néúwiisin Chuuk me FSM President, a pwúngúnó pwe meinisin chóón sáái ngeni Chuuk nón August 1 me August 2 mi mwúúmwútá aar repwe tiwetiw Chuuk. 

Ewe mwúúnap nón FSM a tipeew ngeni an Chuuk we tingór pwe epwene mwuutaanong chóón sáái ngeni Chuuk nón August 1, August 2, August 4 me August 22 nge esapw pwan chiwen sópwosópwonó an etiwa aramas repwe tori Chuuk me mwirin ekkena ráán. Chóón sáái ngeni Chuuk repwe tongeni quarantine nón úkúúkún engoon me rúwáánú (14) ráán.

Ewe mwúúnap FSM me Chuuk State iei ra angaang fengen wóón ew taropween esinesin ren tichchikin poróusen masowen ekkei mwiich ren an epwe fat meefien President David W. Panuelo me Kepina Alexander R. Narruhn.

  1. After the Office of the President received reports that the Municipality of Madolenihmw in Pohnpei State had closed its borders to other parts of Pohnpei island, two Pohnpei State Government officials confirmed that this did indeed occur, but only for approximately a few days, at the beginning of the outbreak of community transmission of COVID-19. The two Pohnpei State Government officials relayed that, as of July 31st, 2022, there are no internal border restrictions on Pohnpei State’s main island. Additionally, the officials described that this will not occur in future.
  1. The Kosraean delegation who attended the Micronesia Expo were scheduled to return to Kosrae on July 30th, 2022. After the captain of the vessel, the MV Micronesian Navigators, was confirmed to be positive for COVID-19, the voyage was delayed. FSM Government officials described that 247 persons were onboard the vessel, and were kept there overnight. Throughout much of today, July 31st 2022, the incident spread to social media where the families and friends of the 247 persons described frustration that the vessel had not left Pohnpei, and the passengers were reportedly unable to disembark if they so desired, such as to procure food or to reunite with family. The Secretary of Transportation, Communication, & Infrastructure relayed this afternoon that the FSM Government was scrambling to find a new captain and additional crew. I am not able to confirm if the ship is voyaging with the original captain or a new captain. However, the Secretary of Resources & Development confirmed that the ship left Pohnpei this evening. A photo from one of her staff is attached to this mass email. International media are given explicit permission to use the photo for any purpose.
  1. In a meeting with his cabinet, President David W. Panuelo instructed the Chair and Vice Chair of the FSM COVID-19 Task Force to fully reconstitute themselves, including the resumption of meetings with all partners, such as diplomatic missions representing foreign governments based in the FSM (i.e. the Embassies of Australia, the People’s Republic of China, Japan, and the United States of America), including the U.S. Embassy Defense Attache Office; members of the private sector, ranging from representatives of international commercial carriers to representatives of the hospitality sector and more; representatives of the United Nations Multi-Country Office and all U.N. agencies present in the FSM; representatives of the Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae COVID-19 Task Forces; and representatives of non-government organizations, such as CROP agencies (e.g. the Pacific Community), in addition to all line agencies and departments of the FSM Government.
  1. Pohnpei State Government reported an additional three deaths attributable to COVID-19. Two officials from the FSM Department of Health & Social Affairs confirmed this information. I remain unable to obtain vaccination and health profiles of persons presently hospitalized and/or deceased. 
  2. My colleagues and I have not received reports from the State of Yap or the State of Kosrae today, and thus I am not able to report this evening/early morning on their status in more detail. I am requesting international media entities unfamiliar with the FSM’s cultural context to please not interpret this as an ill omen unless this continues for the next day or two.

This concludes the updates for tonight. There will be additional updates tomorrow evening.