COVID-19 in the Pacific territories: Isolation, borders and the complexities of governance

Early experience of COVID-19 in seven Pacific politically dependent territories (Guam, American Samoa, Pitcairn, Tokelau, French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, and New Caledonia) emphasises a diversity of contexts, responses, outcomes and possible futures. The consequences of COVID-19, whether present or absent, included deaths, social isolation, impossibility of medical referrals, economic decline, breakdown of supply chains, and some return migration to rural livelihoods. Outcomes were complicated by differences between local and metropolitan interests, objectives, policies and practices, that reflected historical experience; and by geography, budgets, the significance of tourism, the role of a military presence, ethnicity and demography. Indigenous groups were more likely to be affected and disadvantaged. Management of the pandemic provided an intermittent focus for dissent from pro-independence groups. Borders acquired unprecedented significance as barriers and frontiers. The experience of COVID-19 enabled some focus on the possibility of establishing a future ‘new normal’, but immediate revivals and restoration took precedence.

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Updated:  15 July 2024/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  Editorial office