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First case of COVID-19 confirmed in Pacific

French Polynesia has one confirmed case of COVID-19, the first case of the virus in the Pacific islands. 

The patient is a member of the French National Assembly who had been in Paris over the weekend, Radio New Zealand reports.

Whilst in Paris, Maina Sage had met with the French Culture Minister, Franck Riester, who also has been confirmed to have been infected. 

French Polynesia’s President, Tagaloa Edouard Fritch, said Ms. Sage is in self-isolation at home, and that en route to Tahiti had been cleared by a medical professional as having no illness.

Her movements and contacts are being traced since her return to Papeete, and Tagaloa has asked all French Polynesians to postpone their travel plans.

Samoa’s representative for the W.H.O., Dr. Rasul Baghirov, said the report  will not necessarily change the overall risk assessment for Samoa.

“In principal, one case does not change the overall risk anywhere,” he said.

“We have seen a number of countries reporting only very few cases and then no more cases and staying that way. It’s difficult to say whether the French Polynesian case will really create more anxiety and a push for tougher measures.”

Mr. Baghirov said he is more concerned about the widespread transmission in Europe and the Middle East, which increases the overall risk to the global community, than potentially low numbers of cases in French Polynesia for now. 

“It is not necessarily the case for French Polynesia. There is no direct flight to Samoa, but we knew it was a question of when, not if the coronavirus would arrive in the Pacific.”

The Government of Samoa has been monitoring the global situation and updating its travel restrictions according to the growth of cases around the world.

It has yet to confirm whether the changes in French Polynesia will prompt further tightening to travel, trade and other restrictions to keep the coronavirus out of Samoa.

An email to the Government Press Secretariat and the Ministry of Health was not responded to by press time. 

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