RMI to open the door

A USAG-KA official outfitted in full body personal protection equipment stands with three Marshallese who returned to Kwajalein from Pohnpei May 28: Godfrey Capelle, Benjamin Thomas and Connielynn Paul. They are standing outside housing that they are using for a 14-day quarantine period before they can return to Ebeye. Capelle and Thomas were lost at sea for 42 days until they drifted into Namoluk Atoll in the FSM May 14. Photo: Hilary Hosia.

GIFF JOHNSON

Following last week’s repatriation of nine Marshallese from the FSM, the RMI National Disaster Committee (NDC) is expected to start considering arrangements, including protocols, for RMI citizens stranded in Covid-19 affected countries to return home. 
 
Part of this major decision to eventually allow RMI citizens back home will be contingent upon the completion of the quarantine, isolation and laboratory facilities on Majuro, where the main quarantine activity will take place, said Chief Secretary Kino Kabua, who heads the NDC. 

“Return of RMI citizens will need to be done in batches of manageable numbers, and input from MOHHS Public Health Division will be required on the protocols that will be developed,” she added. 

Kabua said the RMI has also had initial talks with US Army Garrison-Kwajalein Atoll Commander Colonel Jeremy Bartel on assistance from the military installation in quarantine for those repatriated.

“The NDC takes into serious consideration all medical advice provided from MOHHS Public Health Division when formulating arrangements and protocols for the return of stranded citizens abroad,” Kabua said, adding that “no decision is made without the input of MOHHS Public Health Division and its medical professionals.”

There are dozens of Majuro and Ebeye residents stuck in various locations — Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, Fiji and the US mainland. In addition, the Army has sought approval to bring in a group of essential workers to the USAG-KA base, including a doctor and fire fighting personnel.

This is the first of what is expected to be requests for close to 300 employees who are needed to bring up the base staffing situation to close to its normal level.

Bartel told the Marshall Islands Chamber of Commerce and government officials during a visit to Majuro last week that he has 136 Kwaj workers stranded in the US since the travel ban came into effect March 8. He has another 150 workers who have been hired for positions at the base that the Army needs to get to Kwaj.

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