The Pacific Community (SPC) is closely monitoring the novel (new) coronavirus (named COVID-19) outbreak that started in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, China early December 2019 and continues to grow. Our Public Health Division (PHD) works in close collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) as part of the multi-agency Incident Management Team (IMT) which has been set up to support and guide Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) in their preparedness, surveillance and response activities.
Beyond involvement in IMT, SPC’s PHD also participates in the US Affiliated Pacific Islands COVID-19 preparedness meetings organized weekly and attended to by countries and technical assistance providers in the North Pacific. SPC also participates in the Fiji taskforce meetings for COVID-19. Our Public Health Division brings expertise and assistance in surveillance, laboratory, and risk communication areas.
SPC monitors the global COVID-19 outbreak through its epidemic intelligence and shares the latest information and updates via a weekly report including alerts map and information on epidemic and emerging diseases circulating in and around the region.
The weekly maps and reports are sent through PacNet, the alert and communication service of PPHSN, in English and French language, to all Pacific Island public health surveillance focal points.
To date (14 February 2020), there are no confirmed cases in any Pacific island countries and territories.
For the South Pacific, SPC facilitated arrangements for laboratory confirmatory testing for COVID-19 initially in Victoria Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory in Melbourne, Australia, and more recently also in the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd (ESR) in New Zealand, Institut Pasteur in New Caledonia, and Institut Louis Malardé in French Polynesia. The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is looking after countries in the North Pacific, together with Hawaii Public Health Laboratory and Guam Public Health Laboratory, on which engagements are currently being sorted. The arrangements are made possible through LabNet, the public health laboratory service network of the Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network (PPHSN).
Laboratory documentation and guidance for the collection and shipment of specimen samples to reference laboratories were disseminated to all Pacific countries. As before, assistance for the shipment and testing of laboratory specimen is provided by SPC with funding support from the French Development Agency (AFD), the European Union (EU) and CDC grants.
SPC assisted WHO in conducting a survey on laboratory preparedness in the region.
SPC collaborates with WHO and other PPHSN partners in providing risk communication support to Pacific Island countries and territories, through the production of messages and materials in English and French. The materials are print ready but can also be adapted by countries to suit local context.
We developed communication resources and infographics on respiratory illnesses that are used by PICTs.
Staff communication and travel advisories
Being mindful of the quality of life in the workplace and in the work environment, SPC provides regular updated information and guidance to staff in regard to Occupational Health Safety and travel restrictions enforced by Pacific Island countries and territories.
For more information and updates on COVID-19, you can visit:
WHO website: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
Christelle Lepers, Surveillance Information and Communications Officer, Public Health Division, Pacific Community (SPC) | [email protected]