PALIKIR, Pohnpei—The COVID-19 Task Force of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) has recommended that the Government temporarily pause future repatriation flights from the U.S. Territory of Guam into the country. His Excellency David W. Panuelo, President of the FSM, has concurred with the recommendation. FSM citizens presently in Government’s Pre-Quarantine site in the U.S. Territory of Guam will return as currently scheduled, but no new flights will be scheduled until further notice.
There are numerous reasons the Task Force has arrived at the recommendation to temporarily pause future repatriation flights into the Nation.
The first reason is that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to result in approximately 700-800 new infections in Guam every day, and so by extension the threat of the virus to repatriating citizens (and to the foreign service officers at the Consulate General in Guam) remains high.
The second reason is that the Task Force is of the understanding that the high rate of infections in Guam, juxtaposed to the high prevention standards of the FSM’s Pre-Quarantine site, results in a significant burden on Guam’s public health capacity at a time when that capacity is better served towards its members of the community.
The third reason is that, upon review of in-country quarantine procedures and processes in some of the FSM’s States, it was agreed between the FSM COVID-19 Task Force and the relevant State COVID-19 Task Force/s that a strengthening of protocols, procedures, and processes—including infection control training—is required.
The fourth reason is that, upon review of the COVID-19 community spread across the North Pacific, the Task Force has determined that the Republic of Palau’s comparative success, including genuine online-access to education for students and the intended reopening of schools this week, and the Republic of Kiribati’s relatively strict but necessary lockdown measures, are intrinsically linked to their respective vaccination campaigns. Virtually every person in Palau is vaccinated against COVID-19; the same is not yet the case for Kiribati. By contrast, the FSM’s vaccination rate is approximately between Palau’s and Kiribati’s, and while the great bulk of adults aged 45-and-up are vaccinated, the vast majority of youth between the ages of 5-12 remain unvaccinated. The Task Force agreed that it is essential for the Nation to improve its COVID-19 vaccination rate for children, and a higher rate of adults with booster doses, before the scheduling of future repatriation flights can continue.
The FSM National Government, being cognizant of the financial impact on repatriating persons who don’t reside in Guam nonetheless being physically present there until such a time that they can return to the FSM, has determined that it is in the interest of those impacted to receive equitable financial assistance until they possess a future opportunity for repatriation. While the details of this assistance are still being developed, the assistance will apply to all persons contacted by the FSM National Government for confirmation of a repatriation slot who are now stranded in Guam. Persons who traveled to Guam of their own volition, or upon the advice of a State Government or Non-Government Organization, may not necessarily be entitled to this assistance.
It is the intent of the FSM National Government that repatriation activities will continue once it has been assessed that doing so represents significantly less risk. It is beyond the scope of the Government’s capacity to offer a timeframe for when repatriation activities will continue in this release.