Chuuk protests urge extension of COVID-19 travel ban

(Photo courtesy of Maurita Hauk Bualuay)

With the Chuuk travel ban set to expire this weekend, the community has made its sentiments known — online and on the streets — with protests and petitions urging the state government to extend the ban, close the border, and protect the community against a COVID-19 outbreak.

The amended emergency declaration signed by Chuuk State Governor Johnson Elimo earlier this month restricts inbound passengers from disembarking at the Pacific island nation’s seaport and airport. The lockdown ends on Saturday, March 28, unless the declaration is amended.

This week, Chuuk’s healthcare workers organized a protest, urging the Governor and the Chuuk State Task Force on COVID-19 to take action and extend the travel ban. They were joined by concerned community members.

Maurita Hauk Bualuay, one of the participants in the protest, said their objective is to ask leaders to “Keep Chuuk on lockdown.”

“The 12 days that Governor Elimo had in the Chuuk State declaration will be up on March 28th. The group is made up of Health Services staff mostly nurses and family members from our communities, including children,” Bualuay said.

Protesters carried signs pushing for an islandwide lockdown. Among the protesters are several local leaders, such as the Mayor of Parem Municipality in Chuuk, local doctor Beth Sappa Konman, Chuuk State Hospital Chief Nurse Irene Nero, and students of Parem Elementary School.

On Facebook and other social media platforms, posts with the hashtag #TongeiChuuk are also being widely shared by the community.

Here are some of the photos of the protest (Courtesy of Maurita Hauk Bualuay)


Online petition

Meanwhile, a concerned group also started an online petition to extend Chuuk’s lockdown period.

“…this petition is humbly imploring our Honorable Chuuk State Governor Elimo to extend the 12-day lockdown period to another 2 months while Chuuk continues to practice preventive measures, observe the dynamic circumstances of COVID-19 and prepare accordingly,” the organizers posted in their petition.

As of Wednesday, March 25, more than 400 people have signed the petition.

Whether on the streets or through online platforms, the Chuukese community is also expressing concern about the capacity of the local health infrastructure to respond to a COVID-19 case should the outbreak reach the island.

The Federated States of Micronesia remains one of the remaining Pacific island nations without a confirmed positive case of COVID-19. Chuuk is one of the four states of the FSM.