Marshall Islands continues inbound travel ban

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MAJURO — The Marshall Islands has extended its ban on inbound travel to the country for another month in an effort to maintain its coronavirus-free environment.

Government Chief Secretary Kino Kabua issued an updated travel advisory late Friday to extend the ban on incoming travelers until August 5. The previous one was due to expire on July 5.

The Marshall Islands closed its borders to incoming travelers on March 8 and remains one of the few countries that is coronavirus-free. Kabua, who heads the government’s National Disaster Committee, continues to issue travel advisories on a monthly basis.

In light of the serious coronavirus infection rate in the United States, which is the main source of in- and outbound travel for the Marshall Islands, it appears unlikely that the inbound travel restriction will be lifted anytime soon. The new travel advisory continues the ban on government outbound travel and “strongly advised” all Marshall Islands residents not to travel abroad. A proposal is pending with the government’s cabinet to suspend outbound travel of private citizens in response to the high rates of infection and death of Marshall Islanders living in the U.S.

Kabua issued exemptions in early June for nine Marshallese citizens to return from the Federated States of Micronesia, which is also coronavirus-free, and has approved a U.S. Army request to repatriate dozens of American workers for the U.S. Army Garrison, Kwajalein Atoll missile testing range who have been unable to return to work. The Americans began returning in small groups ranging from five to 13 in mid-June and are continuing each week. All are undergoing a three-week quarantine period at the Kwajalein base with multiple tests for Covid-19.

For the one flight per month now scheduled to the Marshall Islands, United Airlines Majuro workers don full-body personal protective gear to briefly enter the plane. Photo by Jack Niedenthal.

The new travel advisory extends quarantine for anyone coming into the country from an earlier 14-day period to 21 days in line with the policy implemented as part of the exemption to allow U.S. military base workers entry.

Fishing vessels and most other vessels must spend at least 14 days on the water from their last port of departure to arrival in the Marshall Islands, according to the travel advisory. Container ships that bring food and other essential supplies are exempted from the 14-day quarantine period. But if they have made crew changes, they must provide health data on crew members over a 21-day period prior to arrival in the Marshall Islands.

The two international air carriers still servicing the Marshall Islands are United Airlines and Asia Pacific Airlines. United has since April provided one roundtrip Island Hopper flight per month connecting the Marshall Islands with Guam and Honolulu. APA carries mail and sashimi grade fish for export on two flights each week.

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