Coronavirus: COVID-19 Transmission in Pacific Small Island Developing States

Background: Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have health care systems with a limited capacity to deal with pandemics, making them especially vulnerable to the economic and social impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19). This paper examines the introduction, transmission, and incidence of COVID-19 into Pacific SIDS. Methods: Calculate the rate of transmission (the average number of new cases per day between the first recorded case and the most recent day) and connectivity (daily direct flights to the leading airport in each selected island group) using flight history and COVID-19 transmission data. Results: Correlational analyses show that connectivity is positively related with (a) first-case dates and (b) spread rate in Pacific SIDS. Conclusion: Connectivity plays a central role in the spread of COVID-19 in Pacific SIDS. The continued entry of people was a significant factor for spread within countries. Efforts to prevent transmission by closing borders reduced transmission but also created significant economic hardship because many Pacific SIDS rely heavily on tourism and international exchange. The findings highlight the importance of exploring the possibility that the COVID-19 spread rate may be higher than official figures indicate, and present pathways to mitigate socio-economic impacts. The practical implications of the findings reveal the vulnerability of Pacific SIDS to pandemics and the key role of connectivity in the spread of COVID-19 in the Pacific region.

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