Tokelau prepares for COVID-19 pandemic

The Tokelau government is putting in place measures to ensure the island nation is ready if and when the COVID-19 pandemic reaches the country.

General Manager National and Chair of Tokelau’s COVID-19 Advisory Team, Aukusitino Vitale, said in a media release distributed by the United Nations Development Programme [U.N.D.P.] that they remained optimistic about the measures they have put in place.

“Admittedly, we were overly optimistic with our initial response that the effects of the pandemic would not be for this long. We are far from fully implementing our Preventive and Preparedness Plan," he said.

"Our overall aim is to keep Tokelau COVID-19 free, and in the unfortunate event that there may be a slight rip in our preventative measures, that we are as prepared as a small community could ever be to cope with any suspected or confirmed cases."

In March this year the Tokelau government reallocated its national budget and commenced with upgrading and repurposing of existing buildings for quarantine and isolation. 

The repurposed facilities included school buildings and community centers for women and were fully furnished with the necessary equipment and furniture such as beds, phones, radios, and other essentials. 

These facilities assisted with two repatriation sailings of Tokelauans from Samoa in April and more recently in July this year. With subsequent assistance from New Zealand and the U.N.D.P., Tokelau government has been able to progress much of its preparations, including the construction of purpose-built quarantine centers. 

The focus is now on completing these newly built quarantine centers, thereby freeing up school buildings, allowing the children to return to their classrooms and some semblance of normalcy, and the women to use their centers again for initiatives supporting the entire community.

Another separate U.N.D.P project – known as Strengthening COVID-19 Preparedness, Response, and Recovery in the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, and Tokelau – is funding the implementation of a fully cost socio-economic impact assessment for Tokelau.  

The total U.N.D.P support for these projects is about US$230,000.

The U.N.D.P Resident Representative, Jorn Sorensen said: "United Nations Development Programme’s maxims of leaving no one behind and building back better are incorporated into this assistance to Tokelau."

"We are privileged to work with the Government and people of Tokelau in its preventative and response measures to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In March this year, the General Fono of Tokelau, representing the legislative power, endorsed the Tokelau Prevention, Preparedness, and Response Plan for COVID-19 2020. 

"Immediately after, a joint team of Tokelau Health Officials and World Health Organization consultants visited all three atolls to assess the current situation and capacity in the respective villages to respond to COVID-19, and identify needs that must be addressed to ensure that Tokelau is prepared to respond if there is a suspected or confirmed case.

"The joint team provided a summary of the visit with proposed areas for improvement including repurposing of existing infrastructure facilities in all three villages to enable local capacity to respond to COVID-19."

According to the U.N.D.P. media release, post COVID-19 pandemic, the facilities could be turned into tourist or visitor accommodations to enhance Tokelau’s capacity to generate tourism and business-related revenues.

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