Dreams of a potential travel bubble with popular Pacific nations like Fiji appear to be disappearing amid a disturbing rise in COVID infections.
But there’s one island country that has so far avoided a deadly wave, and it’s preparing to welcome Australian tourists – Samoa.
Since the pandemic began, Samoa has not recorded a single locally acquired coronavirus case, and has administered at least one AstraZeneca dose to more than 33 per cent of its population.
Like the recent travel bubble created between New Zealand and the Cook Islands, the Polynesian nation is hoping to form an arrangement with Australia.
But there’s a catch.
Samoa has ruled that from July 1, all travellers into the island must be fully vaccinated before they arrive.
“We look forward to welcoming vaccinated visitors with open arms, when the time is right for all countries involved,” said Samoa Tourism Authority CEO Faamatuainu Lenata’i Suifua.
While Samoa prepares to capitalise on its COVID-zero status, other Pacific countries haven’t been so lucky.
For months, it appeared the picturesque Fiji islands had escaped the worst of the pandemic, recording very few cases and two deaths.
That was until April, when the Delta variant arrived and triggered an aggressive second wave.
Now, the country of less than one million people has recorded 42 deaths, and a peak of 791 new infections in one day, according to data published late on Wednesday.
“Daily case numbers are expected to continue to increase, along with an increase in people with COVID-19 requiring hospitalisation, and sadly, more deaths,” the health ministry said.
Despite rising infections, the government has so far resisted calls for a hard lockdown and urged people to stay at home instead.
But in a country that relies heavily on tourism, that’s easier said done.
Fijian police have been delivering groceries to homes, but for some the deliveries aren’t coming soon enough.
Many children are surviving on sugar and water because their parents can’t afford to feed them any more, Save the Children Fiji CEO Shairana Ali said.
“Many families employed in ‘non-essential’ services have run out of savings, as lockdowns have impacted their ability to work,” Ms Ali said.
Australia has sent Fiji 1.3 tonnes of personal protective equipment and medical supplies, including 500 thermal guns for health screening teams and testing equipment.
Last month, the Morrison government delivered a further 50,000 AstraZeneca doses and announced it would send a medical team to help with the outbreak.
The situation in Indonesia is becoming increasingly dire, with human rights organisations warning the country is “verging on a catastrophe”.
The nation of 270 million people has recorded more than 2.2 million cases and 60,000 deaths and cases soared from 2300 per day in May, to above 27,000 this week, with 555 deaths reported on Sunday alone.
In response to the unfolding disaster, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne announced on Wednesday that Australia would deliver $12 million of medical equipment, including 1000 ventilators, up to 700 oxygen concentrators and more than 170 oxygen cylinders.
Australia will also deliver more than 40,000 rapid antigen test kits and 2.5 million AstraZeneca doses in coming months.