MAJURO, 09 MARCH 2020 (ABC) — The small Pacific island nation of Marshall Islands is banning all incoming travellers over the next fortnight, in a bid to protect its people from the growing global coronavirus outbreak.

There are no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country of around 50,000 people, or anywhere in the Pacific.

But the Marshall Islands Health Secretary Jack Niedenthal says the government agreed to introduce the total ban on incoming air travel, to give health officials more time to prepare facilities.

“We had almost unanimous consent to shut the place down for two weeks so we can get ready,” Niedenthal told Pacific Beat.

Niedenthal said he didn’t believe they were driving unnecessary fear about the virus.

“An island is a very confined space, and once something like that gets in here, it makes its rounds very quickly and can be very devastating. Some people as many as 20 people living in their house, [there are] very crowded conditions”.

“So we have a lot to protect,” he said.

Marshall Islands has been under a state of health emergency for around eight months, with a dengue fever outbreak seeing almost 1000 people hospitalised and several children dying.

“We don’t have a huge amount of nurses and doctors to cover all these places when it does come, so we’re worried about the manpower issue”

“And we’re tired [because of dengue]…there was one point just a couple of weeks ago that we were getting 200 cases a week. Eighty is a lot for us,” he said……PACNEWS