After surviving the Covid-19 pandemic for two years, the Marshall Islands It is scrambling to control the spread of the infection, which has tripled since the first community transmission a week ago.
The number of positive cases in the North Pacific nation of about 60,000 has risen to more than 3,000, with four Covid-related deaths and seven hospitalizations.
The capital, Majuro, reported 1,000 cases on Sunday, “almost double the number of the previous day,” Health Secretary Jacques Niethendal said.
Niedenthal said about 75% of Covid tests are coming back positive, which he called an “incredibly high positivity rate”.
The Marshall Islands has a vaccination rate of 70% of people six months and older. The remote nation was able to remain Covid-free by October 2020 When two passengers from the US tested positive. However, there were no community broadcasts until this month.
The rising numbers have further strained the Marshall Islands’ limited healthcare system, forcing the ministry to recall Covid-positive healthcare workers to keep facilities running.
In an update on his Facebook page, Niedenthal said more health care workers tested positive on Sunday.
“I’ve seen some negative complaints on social media that we’re asking our healthcare workers to return to work if they’re only experiencing mild symptoms,” he said. However, he said the public health agency was left with no other option. “You can’t get healthcare if you don’t have healthcare workers.”
The Marshall Islands became the first country to close its borders to international travel, banning incoming flights on March 8, 2020, days before the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic.
“We spent many urgent and stressful hours trying to convince other government officials of this, and they listened,” Niedenthal told the Guardian in an email.
There was a covid-19 pandemic before dengue. “We knew we were not going to be able to fight two highly contagious diseases at the same time because of our limited capacity,” Niedenthal said.
He said the immediate closure of the border delayed the arrival of Covid-19, allowing time to organize and prepare. “It was a whole community effort,” he said.
For the entire calendar year of 2021, there have been no cases of Covid-19 in the Marshall Islands. “By delaying the onset of this disease longer than almost every other country in the world, we gained the scientific information we needed to protect our people. It was smart,” he said.
The health secretary said his agency, along with nurse practitioners, would send test kits and supplies to remote villages such as Maloelap, Jalui, Mili and Ailinglap, fearing they too could soon report a large number of cases.
“While other atolls will follow soon, we are trying to prioritize those atolls and islands where we know that Majuro travelers have arrived and potentially been infected since last week,” Niedenthal wrote.