The year 2022 feels like five years packed into one, with significant events and changes occurring within 12 months.
In January, Palau is combatting COVID-19’s entry into the community. By January, Palau had reached a 95% vaccination rate of its adult population but, at the same time, experienced its first local COVID-19 virus transmission and recorded the first COVID-19 death, an elderly woman with underlying conditions.
Schools were suspended, and online classes resumed. Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) placed restrictions on travel to Palau after the reported cases of COVID. The First COVId outbreak occurred, forcing MHHS to amend its protocols, allowing people who tested positive to self-isolate unless needing urgent care.
While in the throes of the COVID surge, normal life continues with President Whipps calling for action on the minimum wage bill and pushing for digital residency. Digital residency Act passed, and Palau inaugurated its first digital residence, Tim Draper, via zoom.
A reported number of criminal activities declined but is not completely gone. The first murder case of 2022 occurred on January 30th, when two young men, Hopkins Ngirailild and Nobby Jay were arrested and charged with the murder of Eisely Richard.
PNCC’s CEO Leo Ben Teriong and COO Myers Techitong resigned from PNCC after the Board suspended them for alleged irregularities in the implementation of a Clean Network bid project.
By February, public health workers who have been battling COVID-19, keeping it bay and managing it once it came, began to show exhaustion. An increase in active COVID cases began to strain the medical staff, who voiced their frustrations and stress.
By mid-February, there were already 4 COVID-related deaths and 123 active cases. Public school face-to-face resumed with an initially low turnout of 50%.
At the regional level, Palau agreed to temporarily withhold its exit from Pacific Island Forum after a fallout in 2021 with its south Pacific colleagues on the election of the Secretary-General of PIF. Micronesian countries had earlier agreed through Mekreos Communique to leave PIF if their candidate is not selected in accordance with standing protocols.
Life continues with the ribbon cutting of five capital infrastructure projects funded by the Republic of China, Taiwan, with a total value of 2.3 million dollars and including road improvement projects as well as basketball court roofing and road/water line project.
Before February ended, Palau experienced its 6th COVId related death and prepared for the visit of the US Indo-Pacific Commander Admiral John Aquilino, the 26th Commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, the United States’ oldest and largest combatant command.
March to December – to be continued.