The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a global health emergency of unprecedented scale, which is threatening the health, wellbeing and security of all Pacific people. This crisis recognizes no borders and requires leadership, coordination, and cooperation from across our Blue Pacific region.

The Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) has pledged its full support to Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) in the response and recovery to this crisis.

As Heads of CROP agencies, we are meeting regularly on COVID-19, with agency resources and staff being adjusted to ensure PICTs are provided with the information and support they require on COVID-19, while continuing to progress existing regional priorities.

CROP agencies are also working closely with Pacific leaders and ministers to take concrete action for the health, safety and wellbeing of Pacific people together with international and regional partners.

How are CROP agencies supporting regional response efforts to COVID-19?

Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 (PHP-C)

Forum Foreign Ministers have agreed to establish a Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 (PHP-C) to expedite assistance and cooperation between Pacific countries in preparing for, and responding, to COVID-19. The PHP-C is providing regional leadership, direction and coordination to enable the provision of medical and humanitarian assistance from regional and international organisations in a timely, safe, effective and equitable manner. Further 

The first delivery through the PHP-C arrived in Nadi on 21 April. This donation of personal protective equipment is being distributed in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia and French Polynesia. 

COVID-19 Joint Incident Management Team (IMT)

Coordinated by WHO in the Pacific with CROP representation from SPC and PIFS, the Joint IMT has developed and are implementing a six-month Pacific Action Plan Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Preparedness and Response.

The Joint IMT is currently helping to address critical supply needs for countries including the procurement of laboratory packaging and personal protective equipment (PPE) and providing technical advice on a range of public health measures.

Pacific Public Health Surveillance Network (PPHSN)

As CROP focal point for this network, SPC is currently deploying staff to do in-country training on COVID-19 case identification, contact tracing, case investigation, outbreak management, in-country assessment, training on infection control and coordinating the procurement process for point-of-care tests (BD Veritor System).

The PPHSN includes six services to prevent and respond to epidemics -coordination of laboratory services, surveillance systems, infection control, alert and communication, knowledge exchange and capacity building.

Socio-economic recovery efforts

While the immediate focus of CROP agencies is supporting regional response efforts on COVID-19, CROP agencies are also working to assess the wider economic and social impacts of this crisis, and provide advice to Pacific Leaders and Ministers on options to strengthen recovery efforts over the medium to longer term.

The tourism sector has been severely impacted. SPTO continues to share information on the impacts and responses from tourism sectors throughout the region. This is informing Pacific regional cooperation on tourism’s recovery from COVID-19.

CROP agencies are also considering the impacts and recovery efforts for trade, investment and remittance flows; food security, fisheries and agriculture; and environmental and waste management.

There is no doubt that in the short term, COVID-19 is impacting the work of CROP agencies. Many meetings and events have been postponed or repurposed and some projects are being adjusted or slowed as we unite behind this common challenge.

Face-to-face classes at all USP campuses in the region were initially deferred, and are now being conducted virtually. CROP agencies are continuing critical work on ongoing regional priorities including climate change action and building Pacific resilience. The efforts we are taking now will help get us through this crisis together.

The members of CROP will continue working to ensure that the Pacific can face this challenge in the same way that we have faced others in the past- with confidence, resilience and unity, in the true spirit of our common Blue Pacific.