Major Developments in Australasia & Pacific Islands, Monday, February 22, 2021

In Australasia & Pacific Islands  today,
there are 15 Developments
AUSTRALIA

1. The federal government is pulling all its advertising campaigns from Facebook. Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, who oversees public expenditure, today said that the ban would be extended across the government. Facebook continues to block Australians from accessing news.

2. The country yesterday re-opened its travel bubble with New Zealand. This means that New Zealanders entering Australia will not need to quarantine. However, until March 1, anyone who has been in Auckland in the past two weeks (excluding the airport) will need to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken less than 72 hours before departure.

FIJI

3. The Fiji Police Force arrested 57 people between February 16 and February 22, for breaching curfew restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A majority of the arrests were alcohol-related, and the highest number of arrests occurred in the Western followed by the Southern Division.

4. Authorities arrested two juveniles in Nadi for allegedly being involved in burglaries. They allegedly burgled a major retail outlet in Namaka, amongst other alleged incidents, in the past month.

GUAM

5. Authorities sentenced at least two employees of a Singaporean-based shipping company for one to two years of probation. They were charged with illegally discharging oil into the Apra Harbor and maintaining fake records relating to discharges of oily water.

6. The government announced the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in the territory. Bars will be allowed to reopen from 5:00 PM on February 24, at a maximum capacity of 50%. Non-Contact sports can resume from March 1.

7. The US Department of Labor ordered the Guam-based Konstrak Builders to pay USD 51,000 to workers that it did not pay overtime rates for as the employees were classified as independent contractors. Konstrak also has to pay USD 10,000 for allegedly wilfully conducting this violation and for failing to keep accurate payroll records.

NEW CALEDONIA

8. An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.1 jolted southeast of the Loyalty Islands yesterday, the US Geological Survey said. The earthquake struck at a depth of 10 km. No tsunami warnings were issued.

NEW ZEALAND

9. Opponents to the airport being expanded in Wānaka and to one being built in nearby Tarras have asked Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to step in and stop the developments. The Wanaka stakeholders group said that the projects will have a severe negative impact on the environment.

10. The Rio Tinto-controlled aluminum smelter at Bluff in South Island has stockpiled more than 100,000 tons of cyanide-laced hazardous waste less than 100 meters from Southland beach. The government said earlier this month it remained “completely blind” about what contamination the closure of the smelter at Tiwai Point might leave behind.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA

11. Pandemic Controller Police Comm. David Manning said home quarantine will not be allowed in the country anymore. “This decision is due to capacity and logistical reasons. But we will consider home quarantine for medical reasons,” he said. Manning appealed to all to strictly adhere to the mandatory 14-day quarantine imposed by the National Control Center.

12. Barrick Niugini Ltd. (BNL) has filed an application in court asking for a stay of the government’s decision that granted Kumul Mineral Holdings Ltd. (KMHL) a new mining lease to operate the Porgera gold mine in Enga. BNL holds the former special lease over the mine that expired last year. It is challenging the new lease which the government granted to KMHL to operate the mine.

SAMOA

13. Samoa’s wage index has recorded a slight increase of 0.7% in the December 2020 quarter, when compared to the corresponding quarter of 2019. This increase was highlighted in a recent report issued by Samoa Bureau of Statistics. According to the report, wages and salaries for the period under review recorded a 0.02% year-on-year increase from USD 142.06 million in December 2019 to USD 142.08 million in the period under review.

14. The Samoa Meteorology Division has forecast heavy rain, which it warns could lead to rivers overflowing and flash floods and urged the public to take precaution. The Meteorology Division issued a severe weather bulletin yesterday that warned of heavy rain, flooding, and strong wind. An area of extreme rainfall and gusty conditions associated with an active convergence zone to the northwest remains and is slowly moving over the group of islands. The system is forecast to linger over Samoa until February 24.

VANUATU

15. Prime Minister Bob Loughman announced the creation of a safe travel bubble between Vanuatu and New Caledonia. From April, the “Tamtam Bubble” will allow easier travel between the Covid-free Melanesian neighbors. Travel will be restricted to Vanuatu’s main island of Efate.

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