The first Marshallese to re-enter RMI during the lockdown was released Tuesday to the general public following 21 days of strict quarantine at the US Army Garrison – Kwajalein Atoll.
Immediately after his release, longtime USAG-KA employee Joe Rubon met with US Ambassador Roxanne Cabral, Col. Jeremy Bartel, Kwajalein Mayor Hirata Kabua, Kwajalein Member of Parliament (MP) David Paul, RMI Liaison Lanny Kabua and Rachel Hickman, Reagan Test Site Deputy Range Director, at the RMI Office on the base.
Joe’s next move: board the metro plane to Roi Namur, where he works as an engineering technician IV. His status as a longtime technician and transmitter operator made him “mission essential” and eligible to fly the ATI military flight from Hickam Air Force base in Hawaii.
Joe has been a resident and employee at Roi Namur for 21 years.
In related news, Majuro Atoll Local Government announced plans over the weekend to shut off passenger travel between Kwajalein and Majuro by stopping the Kwajalein/Majuro Air Marshall Islands route. The news was shared on the MALGov radio program by MALGov liaison for the national government Russell Langrine.
In the announcement, Russell said Mayor Ladie Jack intended to close off Kwajalein due to concerns about the ongoing repatriation program of people from the US.
The news prompted Kwajalein City Manager Scott Paul and MP David Paul to engage with Mayor Ladie Monday.
Then on Tuesday, a press release from the Office of the Chief Secretary announced the first of six Marshallese to be repatriated from Hawaii boarded the ATI flight Tuesday and was heading for Kwajalein and a 21-day quarantine.
The statement said the six stranded are essential workers mostly for Ebeye hospital. The remaining five passengers are expected to arrive on Kwajalein mid-August via military transport.
In addition to the first six Marshallese coming back via military transport, the RMI government’s Cabinet is considering options for repatriating over 200 Marshallese stranded in the US, according to Chief Secretary Kino Kabua.
“More information will be presented to the Cabinet this week on logistics and associated costings,” said Kabua in a statement. “Part of the process also involves consultations with the Majuro and Kwajalein leadership before Cabinet makes a final decision on the repatriation of our stranded citizens.”
The Marshall Islands is one of the first nations to close its borders entirely in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. To date, the borders remain closed, with a few exceptions granted. Chief Secretary Kabua last week issued a new travel advisory, extending the border closure through September 5.