The World Health Organization (WHO) returned the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) to the short list of COVID-free countries on January 28, following the discovery that the one case detected aboard the Chief Mailo was “historical”, meaning that the tested crewman is no longer infectious.
The crewman aboard the Chief Mailo, a government vessel which was returning to Pohnpei from the Philippines, initially tested positive for COVID on January 7, and was confined to the ship along with the rest of the crew. However, a subsequent antibody and antigen test proved the case to be a historical case, and the tested crewman had only been sick with COVID sometime before the vessel arrived in Pohnpei.
“The person is not sick,” said President David Panuelo of the FSM in a public address last Thursday. “The person is not infectious. The person and the crew do not pose any threat to the public for COVID-19.”
The news placed the FSM back beside Palau on a list of island countries which still have yet to experience an active COVID case.
However, President Panuelo followed up the news with an appeal to the States of the FSM to “speed up our vaccination rate”.
“Our overall FSM vaccination rate so far is less than the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, and any of the states in the US,” said the President.
Following the President’s January 28th address, during which he called on other states to “look to the good example set by Chuuk”, which had administered more than 1,500 vaccination doses compared to Yap State’s 150, the overall vaccination doses administered in the FSM rose from 3,500 to 5,048.
A statement from President Panuelo delivered yesterday outlined that 1,783 doses have been administered in Chuuk, 1,675 doses have been administered in Pohnpei, 1,072 doses have been administered in Yap, and 528 doses have been administered in Kosrae.
Yesterday, a government resolution declaring a Public Health Emergency was extended to March 31, 2021 in the FSM, for the time being denying the entry of FSM citizens who are asking to be repatriated. President Panuelo continues to stress that the FSM should vaccinate 70 percent of the population before reopening its borders to repatriating citizens.
“A 100 percent vaccination rate is still our nation’s overall target and objective, but per the sound medical advice we have received from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the WHO, an overall target of 70 percent to 80 percent will be the foundation of the repatriation of our citizens,” said the President.
While the goal of vaccinating 70 to 80 percent of the population may sound similar to Palau’s goal of vaccinating 80 percent of its population before reopening borders to limited travel, this is a much more ambitious goal for the FSM, which, compared to Palau’s population of around 20 thousand, has a population of over 100 thousand. Also, while Palau has managed to accommodate a series of repatriation and medical referral flights, the FSM, which does not have the same screening and quarantine capacity as Palau, continues to hold off on citizen repatriation.
“Something that we have learned over the course of this past month with the return of the Chief Mailo is that, while our frontline responders and our procedures and protocols are resilient, there remains a great deal of fear in the hearts of many of our citizens and decision-makers,” said Panuelo. “I believe that we can extinguish that fear by achieving herd immunity through our COVID-19 vaccination program.”
The crew of the Chief Mailo, meanwhile, will be disembarking in the FSM, following the completion of their quarantine period, and the vessel will return to Chuuk State in the coming weeks to drop off isolation units.

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