Fireworks at Kwaj, Covid in Palau

The last repatriation group for 2021 — Group 14 — “graduated” Tuesday this week at Kwajalein and are able to go about their usual lives in the RMI. Photo: Hilary Hosia.

GIFF JOHNSON

New Year’s fireworks will happen this weekend at the US Army base at Kwajalein after the RMI’s National Disaster Committee waived quarantine requirements for a technical team that arrived Tuesday this week to set up and operate the display.

The Army asked for and was granted an exemption from the one-week Hawaii quarantine and two-week quarantine on Kwajalein for a three-member team to come in to set up and run the display. They arrived Tuesday this week and will be at the base until they depart Sunday, the day after New Year.

The decision about exempting the incoming fireworks team from normal Covid protocols went to Cabinet Monday this week for a final review.

“Because it was a technical request in nature, Cabinet allowed NDC to consider and make the final decision on this special request from USAGA-KA,” said Chief Secretary Kino Kabua, who chairs the NDC. She said the NDC “has entertained one-off type of missions to the base throughout 2021, and provided protocols each time” that the Army followed.
“The partnership between NDC and USAG-KA is an important one, and we continue to work closely together to support the needs from both sides whilst keeping the well-being and the safety of our communities as utmost priority, as we continue to work around and adapt to the new norms as a result of this global pandemic.”
In other Covid news this week:

• One person in the group of over 20 USAG-KA personnel who arrived this week was reportedly bumped from the weekly repatriation flight when they tested positive for Covid while in quarantine in Hawaii.

Since USAG-KA began weekly repatriation flights in June 2020, and the RMI commenced monthly repatriations in October last year, a few people have been bumped from a number of the trips when they tested positive for Covid in Hawaii prior to their group’s departure. All people coming to RMI, either through Kwajalein or Majuro, are required to quarantine for 14 days. RMI’s repatriation group 14 was released Tuesday this week — the last repatriation group of 2021.

• In Palau earlier this week, two of 78 people who had arrived on December 24 tested positive for Covid on their fourth day in Palau. Palau’s Ministry of Health and Human Services said in a release this week that the two positive cases were “placed in isolation for a duration of 10 days, and will be tested again on days five and 10.”

After seeing the positive test results, Ministry staff conducted contact tracing to identify people who had “close contact” with the two individuals in order to isolate them from further potential transmission of the virus. Reportedly, close to 50 contacts were placed in isolation and will also be subject to follow up testing.

While RMI has maintained a one-week quarantine in Hawaii since August, Palau ended pre-departure quarantine in Guam in July. Palau requires inbound travelers 12 years and older to be fully vaccinated and show proof of a negative Covid test prior to departure.
Also in contrast to RMI which requires a 14-day quarantine in Majuro or Kwajalein, Palau has a different system for people arriving into Palau. On arrival, “They are issued a wristband and placed under restriction of movement (ROM) for four days,” Palau Minister of Health Gaafar Uherbelau told the Journal this week. “ROM entails limited movement within Palau — they can stay at home or if tourists, at a Pandemic Certified Hotel — and are to wear a face mask at all times. Travelers are then required to come to the Belau National Hospital on the fourth day after their arrival to undergo exit testing. Once they test negative they are released from ROM and their wristband is removed.”

It is the Covid test on day four after arrival that identified the two individuals to be positive for Covid earlier this week.

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