Remote Tokelau readies for Covid-19

Concern about the spread of Covid-19 has reached one of the most remote corners of the world, with Tokelau preparing isolation facilities and stockpiling essential food.

The New Zealand territory in the central Pacific has set up isolation and treatment facilities on each of its three atolls.

For weeks now, Tokelau has already imposed restrictions on who can travel there. Only returning residents are allowed to travel, and they have to undergo a medical examination before they board the boat from Samoa, which has also closed its borders to all arrivals.

Still, the head of the Tokelau public service, Aukusitino Vitale, said the general fono has ordered the territory to prepare.

"We have had a team of [World Health Organisation] who has travelled around the villages with the health team to give advice on redesigning things like quarantine houses, isolation units and shelters that are required just to address an emergency situation," said Mr Vitale.

The territory has also stockpiled essential food, in case its food supply is affected by the pandemic.

Mr Vitale said each of the atolls is having a 20-foot container loaded with dry goods to help them get through, which are currently being held at Tokelau's supply warehouse in Apia.

He said these will be dispatched as each atoll requires, which minimises any stress on Samoa's food and water security.

"The villages have done orders and the transport department has dedicated cargo vessels. One left yesterday for Atafu, our most northern island. And another dedicated Apia to Nukunonu on the 30th of March," Mr Vitale said.

New Zealand's government had paid $3 million to help with Tokelau's preparedness, which Mr Vitale said was part of a New Zealand government package to help Pacific countries respond to the pandemic.

Mr Vitale said Tokelau's administrator, Ross Ardern, had been instrumental in making sure the atolls were well prepared for the coronavirus.

"But Tokelau also has to do its homework, like listing how this fund will be spent and the reporting mechanisms to satisfy the requirements of the funding, the 3-million dollar funding."