The Government of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is planning to bring in its first flight of repatriated citizens from Guam on May 13, many of whom have been stranded outside of their country for over a year.
The flight will be carrying medical patients, attendants, students, and top-level diplomats, said a Presidential declaration yesterday. The declaration also said that efforts are underway to repatriate FSM citizens stuck in Palau and the Marshall Islands.
An estimated 900 FSM nationals remain stranded, in places such as Guam and Hawaii, as the FSM’s borders have remained shut. In December of last year, a repatriation flight which was also scheduled from Guam to the FSM was cancelled, due to “scenarios” which could “threaten the safety of our citizens”, said FSM President David Panuelo.
According to the declaration, President Panuelo sent a diplomatic note to the US Government on March 30 to request a humanitarian assistance flight from Guam, to which the US agreed. Repatriating citizens will be required to be fully vaccinated beforehand, and will undergo a 14-day pre-quarantine period and two COVID-19 tests.
With a population of over 113 thousand, over six times the size of Palau, and many islands which are much more widespread and less accessible, the FSM has been lagging behind Palau in its vaccination rates, with 26 percent of the population, or 15,552 people, having received their first dose of the vaccine, and 17 percent of the population, or 9,866 people, fully vaccinated as of April 3. The FSM Government initially aimed for a 70 percent vaccination rate among its adult population before repatriating its stranded citizens. However, although the Office of the President maintains that this goal is still in place for the repatriation of most citizens in affected areas, repatriation of medical patients from Guam, and of citizens in Palau and the Marshall Islands, will begin before this goal is achieved.
The repatriation question has been a hot topic of debate for the FSM. While strict measures and unrelenting border closures have kept the FSM COVID-free so far—with the one incident of a positive case aboard the Chief Mailo detected in January having turned out to be historical—many citizens of the FSM have repeatedly called on the Government to bring stranded family members home, some of whom are the “main breadwinners” of their families. However, with the extremely limited healthcare capacities of the islands, the President’s Office has previously deemed repatriation too risky to the FSM’s population.
The repatriation flight will also be carrying medical capacity-building personnel from the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to assist throughout the initial repatriation efforts. The medical experts will be providing training to FSM medical personnel particularly in the use of ventilators.
President Panuelo emphasized that it is now “our individual citizens’ responsibility” to take the vaccine.
“I emphasize again that it is a very serious responsibility upon our Nation’s citizens to ensure that you get vaccinated at the nearest possible opportunity,” said President Panuelo. “I am mandating that every National Government frontline worker—every doctor, nurse, customs, immigration, quarantine, and police officers, and transportation workers, who may come into contact with repatriating persons—be fully vaccinated, and encourage our State Governments to do the same, so as to help ensure that we have as airtight a repatriation regime as possible.”

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