State of health emergency declared over Covid ‘catastrophe’
A state of health emergency has been declared in the South Pacific archipelago of New Caledonia amid a growing number of Omicron cases and low rates of vaccination, French government spokesperson Gabriel Attal announced on Wednesday.
Emphasizing that the authorities “have to be prepared to react,” Attal said that the government has adopted “a decree declaring a state of health emergency in New Caledonia” as a response to the “sanitary catastrophe” on the archipelago, home to 270,000 residents.
The spokesman explained that the decision was made in light of the situation in hospitals, as the risk of overstretching the healthcare system increases due to the high transmissibility of Omicron and the “lower vaccination coverage” in New Caledonia. According to the French government’s figures, just over 68% of the islands’ population has received at least one vaccine shot, and the incidence rate has been 1,468 cases per 100,000 residents over the last seven days, as of February 1.
The state of emergency gives officials in the French territory the power to adopt extra measures against Covid, such as banning unnecessary travel. However, all such steps will be strictly proportionate to the sanitary risks, Attal assured.
New Caledonia managed to remain Covid-free until September 2021, but since then it has registered a total of 23,231 Covid cases and 284 coronavirus-related deaths.
The archipelago has become the latest overseas territory of France where the state of health emergency has been declared in recent months, following Martinique, Reunion, Guadeloupe, Guyane, Mayotte, Saint Barthelemy, and Saint Martin.