Marshall Islands

Marshalls leads Pacific's Covid-19 vax charge

The programme is funded by the United States and has been so successful the Micronesian republic has withdrawn from the global Covid-19 vaccine facility Covax, aimed at providing equitable access among low and middle income countries.

Covax, which is funded through wealthy governments and donor organisations, had committed 24,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to help the Marshall Islands achieve 20 percent coverage by year's end.

Deliveries were slated to begin next month.

Marshalls follows Palau, FSM in initiating Forum withdrawal

"Cabinet approved the withdrawal from the Pacific Islands Forum last Thursday," said Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Casten Nemra.

"(The) next step is for Nitijela (parliament) to endorse the move through a resolution."

The move by the Marshall Islands follows similar actions by Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) over the past week.

The five Micronesian presidents, including those from Kiribati and Nauru, met 8 February and agreed on the withdrawal, and that they saw minimal if any impact by departing the region's primary body.

Islands move quickly on Covid-19 vaccine outreach

On a per capita basis, the islands have higher vaccine rates than many states in the US, said the Marshall Islands Health Secretary in Majuro.

In the first 10 days since receiving a small number of doses to start, the Marshall Islands injected first vaccines to over 600 healthcare workers and front line government employees who work in sea and airports.

The US government is providing the Moderna brand Covid-19 vaccines to the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.

Record drugs haul washes up on shore in Marshall Islands

About 649kg (1,430lbs) of cocaine was found hidden inside a vessel that had run ashore.

Police said the drugs were incinerated on Tuesday, apart from two packets, which have been sent to the US Drug Enforcement Administration for testing.

The drug haul has an estimated street value of $80m (£61m).

Drugs often wash ashore on the Marshall Islands, but last week's discovery set a new record.

The boat was found by a local resident on Ailuk atoll. Locals tried to move the vessel but were unable to due to its weight.

Marshall Islands feeling economic hit of Covid-19

The Ministry of Finance estimated a 25 percent shortfall in collections against projections for March, with worse likely to come.

"The number that I'm providing now is very rough," said Finance Secretary May Bing Thursday.

"But when we looked at our figures for FY2020, our collection in March is way below budgeted/expected figures and may continue the trend in coming months."

She estimated the March tax shortfall at 25 percent.

"We do anticipate a decrease in collection as activities within the private sector are clearly challenged," Ms Bing added.

Suspected case of coronavirus in Marshall Islands

A male, 66, was quarantined at Majuro hospital on Thursday and is identified by health authorities as a "patient under investigation", said Health Secretary Jack Niedenthal in a statement.

Mr Niedenthal also called for donor assistance to provide laboratory-testing equipment so the islands have the ability to test for the coronavirus locally.

"This case is being treated and investigations are underway, including laboratory testing, to determine if this is a confirmed case of Covid-19."

He advised the public to remain calm and practice preventative measures.

Marshall Islands bans overseas govt travel over coronavirus

Marshall Islands President David Kabua signed a proclamation late Friday night declaring a State of Health Emergency in response to the World Health Organization's declaration that the new coronavirus is a "public health emergency of international concern."

Health authorities in the western Pacific nation say their medical facilities would be quickly overwhelmed with even a handful of coronavirus patients.

New president for Marshall Islands

Mr Kabua, a veteran politician and former cabinet minister who is the second son of founding president Amata Kabua, won the vote by 20-12 with one abstention.

Mr Kabua has previously held the health and internal affairs ministerial portfolios.

Mr Kabua was seen as a presidential candidate who could bring rival candidates together as a leader acceptable to most factions, said RNZ Pacific correspondent Giff Johnson.

He described Mr Kabua as a likeable man, with a "low-key personality".

Marshall Islands extends dengue health emergency

While cases of dengue fever on Ebeye Island have dropped to a daily trickle, Majuro continues to see high numbers, according to the latest report from the Ministry of Health and Human Services.

President Hilda Heine signed the second one-month extension of the declaration of health emergency, which will see it extend to early November.

Ebeye is where the dengue outbreak started, with the first case reported in late May.

Audit needed of Marshall Islands nuclear 'coffin' - Pacific Islands Forum

Campaigners have warned for years of the danger posed by the 18-inch think concrete dome, perched on a small island in Enewetak Atoll and used to store nuclear waste leftover from atomic testing conducted in the 1950s and 1960s.

"What is lacking is independent verification," Dame Meg Taylor said on Tuesday. "Which frightens people."