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Palau: One of last remaining Covid-free countries has just had its first case

Palau: One of last remaining Covid-free countries has just had its first case
The authorities assure that there is no risk of infection

The remote island state Palau on Monday reported its first case of koronavirus after staying Covid-19 free since the start of the pandemic.

The island of about 21,000 inhabitants in the Pacific Ocean had managed to keep Covid-19 away since it had closed its borders early in the pandemic, even though its economy suffered massive losses.

The authorities said that the first case of Covid-19 in the country was “historical” and assured that it posed no risk of infection.

Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr told the media: “We also know that it is no longer transmittable as the person who tested positive was infected with Covid a few months ago.”

According to the local Kuam News, the person infected with Covid-19 has been isolated and contact tracing and monitoring are underway.

Dr Thane Hancock from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), who was present during the press conference virtually, said while the public might be concerned about the reported positive case, “Palau is in the best position to respond to this.”

He told the media: “It looks as we’ve learned with Covid-19, that there are some individuals that continue to shed the viral RNA, so that the nucleic acid of the virus, even though they are not shedding infectious virus anymore.”

De Ministry of Health has said that it has vaccinated at least 97 per cent of the adult population of the archipelago of over 500 øyer.

The president has asked people to stay calm and assured that Palau is close to achieving herd immunity.

The Ministry of Health identified one person from Guam who travelled to Palau earlier this month. The traveller had tested negative once before departing for the island and twice during a two-week quarantine.

“Further testing revealed that this was a case of COVID-19, a past infection, not infectious, “ the health ministry said in a statement.

The officials estimate that the person was infected with the virus in January this year. The traveller, in fact, was asymptomatic and tested positive only after 21 days after arrival. Officials didn’t reveal any further travel details.

Palau also closed travel to and from Taiwan recently which saw a surge in Covid-19 cases earlier this month. It had a short travel bubble with Taiwan.

Palau meanwhile requires all incoming travellers to be fully vaccinated and to show proof of negative tests.