After nearly two years, COVID-19 detected on remote Kiribati

COVID-19 has been detected on the remote Pacific nation of Kiribati for the first time. 

Kiribati has been one of the few areas of the world that was safe from COVID-19 throughout the pandemic due to its early, strict travel restrictions and its remote location, The Associated Press reported

But not even a month after loosening its border restrictions, the country is seeing an outbreak of COVID-19 cases.

The outbreak began when Kiribati permitted the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to bring back 54 citizens to Kiribati, many of whom had been working as missionaries, the AP reported.

Kiribati ensured the citizens were fully vaccinated and that they were tested three times in Fiji first, but 36 individuals ended up testing positive for the virus once they landed in the country.

A church spokesperson told the AP the individuals are working with authorities and staying in quarantine.

The number of positive cases has since jumped to 181, and Kiribati is now deploying coronavirus restrictions such as lockdowns, curfews and quarantine sites. The government has declared a state of disaster in the nation with only 113,000 residents and few intensive care unit beds, according to the AP. 

Just 33 percent of Kiribati’s citizens are fully vaccinated.