The remoteness of Pacific Island countries has proved both a blessing and a curse during the coronavirus pandemic.
The relative isolation may have been the best defense for these nations, some of which, like Tonga, Samoa and Kiribati with limited international connections, have not yet reported a single case of COVID-19, according to the latest World Health Organization figures. In others, the novel coronavirus disease arrived as late as November.
But even though the islands may have escaped the worst health impacts of the pandemic, their economies haven’t been spared a hammering.
Those that depend on international tourism for a large slice of their revenues – among them Fiji and Palau – have suffered the most.
The International Monetary Fund has predicted that the economy of Fiji, which had 55 cases and just two deaths up to January 18, would decline by a staggering 21 percent in 2020. Employment across the archipelago has nosedived.