Covid crisis in French Polynesia surpasses deadly surge in Caribbean

·2-min read

The Pacific territory of French Polynesia is now reporting 2,731 coronavirus infections for every 100,000 inhabitants, far in excess of the disastrous figures in the French Caribbean territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique. Fewer than 30 percent of French Polynesians have been fully vaccinated.

Staff at the hospital in Taaone, Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, have been forced to install two dozen beds in the entry hall to the establishment, currently submerged by a wave of coronavirus victims.

A team of health workers arrived earlier this week from New Caledonia this to help manage the situation.

The rate of infection in the Pacific island chain far exceeds the 1,700 cases per 100,000 reported last week in Guadeloupe, and the 1,200 per 100,000 in Martinique, both described as requiring urgent action by French Health Minister, Olivier Véran, on his visit to the Antilles last week.

The coronavirus appeared to have been banished from French Polynesia, with practically no local infections reported between March and June.

The Delta variant has dramatically changed that picture, with 2,731 cases now being reported for every 100,000 inhabitants. On Wednesday, there were 303 new hospital admissions, 38 to emergency care, and 11 deaths.

Schools on the archipelago re-opened last week. Some establishments have been forced to close because of the high number of infections.

Weekend lockdown and extended curfew

Polynesians are currently subject to a weekend lockdown and a 9PM to dawn curfew.

Less than one-third of the population has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

According to Dr. Jacques Raynal, the local health minister, "98 percent of those needing emergency care" have not been inoculated.

Earlier this month, a wedding party at a French Polynesian restaurant was attended by hundreds of people -- including top local figures -- in defiance of existing rules and with no one wearing masks.

"We were not exemplary and I am infinitely sorry," said the territory's president Edouard Fritch, who was seen playing the guitar in images of the party that shocked many Polynesians. The mayor of the capital Papeete, Michel Buillard, was pictured providing the vocals.

The Indian Ocean island of La Réunion also remains in partial lockdown, a measure which has prompted protests and led to scuffles with the security forces.

In sharp contrast, the French overseas territories of New Caledonia, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon and Wallis et Futuna are currently reporting no Covid cases.

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