On Friday August 7, 19 businesses in the Marshall Islands received Covid relief funds from the RMI government in a ceremony at the President’s Office. The total amount issued was estimated at above $500,000. President David Kabua, a number of Cabinet ministers, and top RMI officials were on hand for the presentation to representatives of the companies.
In other coronavirus developments in the Marshall Islands:
• At Monday’s Nitijela opening, those in the chamber were asked to stand twice for silent prayer for those who have died worldwide, including Marshallese living in the US, from Covid-19. Speaker Kenneth Kedi in unscripted remarks called for a minute of silence and was followed by President David Kabua adding his own minute of silence during his state of the nation address.
• A second payment to Marshallese stranded overseas went out over the past few days, with 245 receiving a second $500, according to the Office of the Chief Secretary. The first group to receive the initial $500 earlier this summer totaled 290. The 45 difference in the two numbers is because some from the first group have a change of status to “no longer stranded.” These are mostly students who are either allowed to go back to their dorms or have returned to normal schedule this school year.
• The debate over repatriation of Marshallese in the United States heated up this past weekend in Majuro. Lerooj Esther Zedkaia and numerous alaps of Majuro told RMI government officials Saturday to keep the RMI’s border closed to prevent Covid-19 coming into Marshall Islands.
The RMI’s National Disaster Committee held an outreach meeting with Majuro landowners, including Nitijela members and local government leaders, at MALGov’s City Hall in Delap Saturday afternoon. Led by Lerooj Esther, Majuro leaders called for the border to stay closed and for repatriation of Marshallese from the US to be delayed until a vaccine is found.
“If Majuro is not ready, Kwajalein is another option available to us,” Chief Secretary Kino Kabua told the assembled traditional leaders Saturday.
“I totally understand the concerns coming to us given the increasing cases around the world, especially in the US, but the RMI government also has an obligation to its stranded citizens abroad,” Kabua told the Journal. “If there is a way to bring them in safely — all protocols observed — we need to seriously consider the repatriation option.” She pointed out that the US Army has been doing this since the first group of Kwaj workers returned for quarantine on June 9.
Kabua said the Army has offered its facilities for Marshallese repatriation in the future, beyond the six who will come in this month on military aircraft.