Pacific Island economies face collapse over COVID-19
The Pacific region is almost COVID-19-free but economies have been devastated.
Strict border closures have devastated tourism, a crucial revenue earner and restricted much-needed imported foods in Pacific Island states.
“COVID-19 is clearly the job-killer of the century,” Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said.
“You can’t suddenly work from home when you earn your pay cheque as a scuba instructor, or in a garment factory dependent on regional supply chains, or as a handicraft maker who usually sells to tourists.”
Cook Islands deputy prime minister Mark Brown said the pandemic lockdowns were an “economic tsunami”. Tourism makes up 65 per cent of the islands’ economic activity.
A report published by the Hawaii Journal of Health and Social Welfare, says some measures taken to fight Covid-19 are likely to increase the long-term risk of non-communicable diseases common across the Pacific, such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.
“For example, trade and movement restrictions within and between countries has reduced availability and accessibility to healthier foods, and increased reliance on unhealthy processed foods,” the report said.
“In addition, there is potential for individuals becoming less physically active as a result of curfews and restricted movement; abuse of tobacco and alcohol while being isolated at home; and an increase in domestic violence.”
Small Pacific Island states typically produce less than 65 per cent of their country’s dietary energy supply domestically.