Pacific islands risk being ravaged by COVID-19

The country was given an overall risk rating of 5.7, compared to Australia on 1.4 and New Zealand on 1.1.

To compare, Iran – which has been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19, only has a risk rating of 3.3, while Italy has the same risk rating as Australia on 1.4.

Australia and New Zealand ranked as the least at-risk countries in the region.

CARE Australia CEO Peter Walton said health services were incredibly stretched in most Pacific Island nations even before the outbreak of COVID-19.

“Some of our neighbours already have confirmed cases in the thousands, while others are bracing for a future nightmare scenario,” Mr Walton said.


“This pandemic and its economic repercussions are going to hit the world’s poorest the hardest, and many of these people are in our own corner of the world.”

The analysis used data from the INFORM Global Risk Index and was based on seven indicators related to COVID-19: exposure to epidemics generally, access to healthcare, underlying health conditions, vulnerable groups, food insecurity, social-economic vulnerability and communications capacity.

Vanuatu, which was hit by a category five cyclone this week, was given a risk rating of 4.0.

After pummelling Vanuatu’s northern islands as a category-five storm, Harold has weakened to category-four and is on track to pass just south of Fiji’s biggest island, Viti Levu, on Wednesday.

The cyclone has destroyed houses and brought down telecommunications in Vanuatu’s Sana province. The country’s second largest city, Luganville, has been one of the hardest hit, with the roof of the council building ripped off, according to photos posted on social media.


Mr Walton said the “rule book is basically out the window” when dealing with the parallel challenges of COVID-19 and the cyclone.

He said it was important that the relief operation did not bring COVID-19 to Vanuatu, which currently had no confirmed cases of the virus.

“We’re preparing for this to be a massive response that’s needed. The sad truth of it is a judgment has to be made about the higher immediate risk … you can’t physically distance in evacuation camps.”

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