Pacific countries, shaken by measles, on alert for coronavirus

08:41 am on 24 January 2020

Countries across the Pacific are monitoring their borders in an effort to stave off any cases of coronavirus.

Passengers wearing mask walk at quarantine inspection during the time when a flight arrived from Wuhan at Kansai International Airport in Osaka. Photo: AFP

The new virus, which started in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has spread rapidly across China and to other countries, so far killing 17 people.

Several Pacific countries have announced they are increasing monitoring at their borders.

Thermal cameras have been installed at New Caledonia's airport, while Fiji's government said medical officers would be monitoring all incoming flights from China.

In a region still shaken from the measles outbreak last year, the Marshall Islands, Palau and American Samoa say they will continue border restrictions imposed during the measles outbreak.

In Samoa, where 83 people died in last year's measles epidemic, the government has implemented measures to prevent the coronavirus from entering the country.

All travellers to Samoa must have medical clearance to do so three days before travel, showing they're free from infectious diseases.

Travellers from coronavirus affected countries must spend at least 14 days in a country free from the virus before entering Samoa.

Meanwhile, there are currently 10 Samoan scholarship students studying in the city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the viral outbreak.

Six of them remain in the city which is under lockdown because of the virus, while the four others are abroad for the Chinese New Year break.

In Papua New Guinea, health officials will also screen incoming travellers at the country's borders.

PNG's Health Minister Jelta Wong said the country was preparing as best as it could to contain the threat.

Jelta Wong. Photo: Facebook / Jelta Wong

The department was working with officials from Immigration and the National Airports Commission to screen at PNG's international airport.

"What we're going to do is we'll set up a quarantine room at the international airport, and any passengers from China or of Asian countries that are coughing or are sick will be sent straight there, and thoroughly checked before they're allowed into the country."

Mr Wong said that health officials would also screen incoming travellers for coronavirus at other border entry points, including ports.