September 13, 2021 by archyde
Nurses prepare doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty vaccine against Covid-19 at a vaccination center in Noumea, New Caledonia, September 7, 2021. THEO ROUBY / AFP
New Caledonia, so far spared by the Covid-19 epidemic thanks to its “zero Covid” strategy, is now learning to live with the virus and must organize itself to fight against its spread. Since the discovery of the first three indigenous cases, Monday, September 6, a speed race has started. While the virus is spreading exponentially – Monday, September 13, 821 cases have been identified and two deaths have been recorded – the Caledonian authorities, after having decided to apply to the territory, from Tuesday September 7, a strict confinement of ‘at least fifteen days, gave a boost to the vaccination campaign, made compulsory for over 12 years.
Read also First death from Covid-19 in New Caledonia
The High Commissioner of the Republic, Patrice Faure, also announced, Monday, the establishment of a curfew for at least fifteen days and the extension of at least one week of confinement, while New Caledonia was placed in a state of health emergency. “Now is the time to mobilize. We are facing an unprecedented health situation ”, warned the president of the government, Louis Mapou (independence activist).
The arrival of the virus and its variant Delta on the Caillou was feared by many. Although New Caledonia received the first doses of Pfizer vaccine in January – 260,000 have since been delivered – a large part of the population remained reluctant to be vaccinated. As of September 7, barely a quarter of some 288,000 inhabitants had been fully vaccinated, with only 30% having already received a first dose. In a territory where obesity affects two thirds of adults and diabetes a tenth of the population, where the community lifestyle remains predominant among tribes and squats, the low vaccination coverage foreshadowed this rapid outbreak.
Affected Loyalty Islands
As of September 3, the Congress of New Caledonia adopted the principle of compulsory vaccination. The decision sparked a demonstration of more than 2,000 people the next day in the streets of Noumea. With the appearance of the first indigenous cases, calls for compliance with confinement and vaccination have multiplied. The president of the North province, the independentist Paul Néaoutyine, invited “The entire population of the northern province to scrupulously follow the confinement instructions” and to “Show responsibility to break the chain of transmission of the virus”. “At this stage, we have no other means to fight effectively against Covid-19 than vaccination”, he added.
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