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Micronesia's first COVID outbreak reaches 1,000 cases - after avoiding the virus for two-and-a-half years

Last week the Pacific island nation is thought to have become the final nation in the world with a population of more than 100,000 to suffer an outbreak of the disease - after avoiding it for two-and-a-half years thanks to its geographic isolation and border controls.

Image:Pic: AP
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Micronesia's first outbreak of COVID-19 has burgeoned to more than 1,000 cases in one week.

Last week the Pacific island nation is thought to have become the final nation in the world with a population of more than 100,000 to suffer an outbreak of the disease - after avoiding it for two-and-a-half years thanks to its geographic isolation and border controls.

Health officials said cases were rapidly increasing and the country reported 140 new cases on Monday, bringing the total to 1,261.

Eight people have been admitted to hospital and one older man has died, officials said.

Several top politicians and senior officials have caught the disease, including Vice President Yosiwo George, who has been admitted to hospital. Officials said his condition was improving.

The initial outbreak came less than two weeks before Micronesia planned to end its quarantine restrictions and reopen its borders to the world on 1 August.

Micronesia is an island country consisting of four states spread across the western Pacific, around 2,900km (1,802 miles) north of eastern Australia.

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Last year, it became one of the few countries to impose a broad mandate requiring all eligible citizens to get COVID vaccinations.

The government threatened to withhold federal funds from any individuals or business owners who did not follow the rules.

This week health officials said 75% of people aged five and over were fully vaccinated.

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Image:An aerial view of Pohnpei International Airport in Kolonia, Federated States of Micronesia. Pic: AP

Almost all nations in the world have now experienced COVID-19 outbreaks, with Turkmenistan being the only country with more than 100,000 people that has not reported any cases. However, experts believe there has been a significant outbreak that the autocratic leadership there has chosen to ignore.

Elsewhere in the Pacific, the Omicron variant has spread the virus to several small nations for the first time this year, including Kiribati, Tonga, Samoa and Nauru.