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Nation rocked by acting governor arrest

Five senior state government officials have been charged with over two hundred counts of criminal violations for not facilitating a proper quarantine facility in Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).

The charges relate to the Pohnpei state officials failure to adhere to instructions and to prepare a facility which should have accommodated 71 passengers inbound on a repatriation flight from Guam.

This inaction led to overcrowding of the lobby and hallway of the Emergency Medical Unit, forcing the travelers to sleep on the floor with no provisions for clean water, beddings, bedsheets, and pillows.

Acting Governor of Pohnpei State, Christina Elnei, Chair of the Pohnpei State COVID-19 Task Force, Norleen Oliver-DeOrio, Director of Public Safety Patrick Carl, Pohnpei State Public Information Officer Patrick Pedrus, and Commissioner for the Pohnpei Public Broadcasting Corporation Peterson Sam were arrested and charged.

Pohnpei State Hospital’s Emergency Medical Unit was not big enough for 71 people. Picture: Pohnpei State Government

Their cases are pending before the FSM Supreme Court.

The FSM national government is alleging that the five officials did not adhere to instructions that were given to ensure safe protocols were followed, leading to overcrowding and forcing 71 passengers to quarantine in a facility that was not fit.

It is alleged that the officials conspired together to misinform the people of FSM on what led to the situation.

FSM’s international borders have been closed for the last two years and President David Panuelo is hoping to open the borders on August 1.

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“We have approximately six weeks or a month and a half prior to the opening of our borders,” Mr Panuelo said in a statement.

“I have been vaccinated and boosted twice; the vaccine is safe and highly effective at its mission of preventing severe disease and death. I strongly encourage all FSM citizens to get their vaccinations and booster doses at the nearest opportunity, because the vaccine is ultimately the difference between a person treating COVID-19 as if it is a minor flu versus treating COVID-19 as if it is a serious terminal disease.

The Federated States of Micronesia’s international borders have been closed for the last two years and President David Panuelo is hoping to open the borders on August 1. Picture: Fijian Government

“It has been two and a half years since our Nation closed its borders. I have done everything I can to keep this country safe during this Pandemic since January 31st, 2020. I cannot keep our borders closed any longer. We must return to normalcy. The only way to do that safely is if you get vaccinated. The choice is yours—but please make it the right one, and get vaccinated, and get boosted, today.”

This has shown the disagreement between the national and the state governments in the FSM on measures taken to fight against the pandemic, including getting vaccinated which is mandatory for all above the age of 18.

Even despite this, vaccination figures have remained low.

Mr Panuelo said state governments needed to have trust and confidence in the FSM national government, the FSM COVID-19 Task Force, and all officials charged with the duty of implementing the COVID-19 protocols and guidelines, in accordance with the Congressional Resolution passed by the 22nd FSM Congress.

“I urge the state governments to have a genuine and constructive deliberation and discussion with the National Task Force towards having uniform and unified protocols across the Nation, instead of being destructive, being divisive, and being a needlessly dramatic faultfinder seeking political points and gain at the expense of our Nation’s unity, and our Nation’s health.”

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