Panuelo addresses concerns over FSM’s 1st COVID-19 case

FSM President David Panuelo (file photo)

FSM President David Panuelo has addressed concerns raised over the first COVID-19 case reported in the Federated States of Micronesia.

The first COVID-19 positive case in the FSM is a crew member of the MV Chief Mailo — a government ship currently docked in Pohnpei after spending months in the Philippines.

Panuelo says that on Dec. 23, 2020, he accepted the recommendation from the FSM National COVID-19 Task Force to inform the MV Chief Mailo to return from the Philippines after spending more than one year there for drydock repairs.

The Chief Mailo left the Philippines on December 24 and arrived in the FSM on January 4, 2021, where it has remained in Pohnpei State’s lagoon under 24/7 surveillance.

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“I authorized the Chief Mailo to return home to the FSM because the Government was faced with two choices. The ship’s crew were already at the minimum operation requirement, and some of the crew were saying that they would leave the ship to either stay in the Philippines or see their families stranded in Guam,” Panuelo said.

With the returning crew is a 12-year-old boy, who was a sole survivor of a shipwreck and who was found drifting from Polowat to the Philippines.

“Based on the information provided to me, in particular the repeated negative COVID-19 test results, I chose to bring them home. I could not abandon our citizens, and I could not abandon a 12-year-old child, as they were exposed to far more danger than our citizens stranded in Guam, Hawaii, China, Japan, and elsewhere. I take full responsibility for this choice,” Panuelo said.

According to the FSM Government, on Thursday, January 14, the COVID-positive individual and the rest of the crew will be tested again. The crew will be tested in two different ways: the first is through another nasal swab PCR test, which will confirm if the person is currently infected with COVID-19. The second is a blood test to check for antibodies.