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19 Mar 2020 | 05:51 AM UTC

New Caledonia: International flights to be suspended March 24

New Caledonia announces first two COVID-19 cases March 19; international flights to be suspended week of March 24

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Event

On Thursday, March 19, authorities announced that all international flights will be suspended after Tuesday, March 24, and have urged foreigners to return home while they are able amidst efforts to contain the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Commercial passenger flights to mainland France will be suspended as of Monday, March 23, though freight and medical flights will continue. All flights to Wallis and Futuna have been suspended, and one final flight to French Polynesia will be provided on Saturday, March 21. Entry has also been prohibited to all foreign non-residents.

On Thursday, the government also confirmed the first two cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in New Caledonia. The patients arrived by plane from Sydney on Tuesday, March 17, and have been quarantined. Health officials have also quarantined 13 people the infected visitors came into contact with.

The government has announced that schools, bars, restaurants, and cinemas are to close indefinitely on Thursday to try to limit the spread of the virus.

As of Thursday, March 19, there are two confirmed cases reported in the territory, with no associated deaths. Further international spread of the virus is likely over the coming weeks.

Context

The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.

Advice

Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly, and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.