Since the first cases of COVID-19 affected the global travel and tourism industry in The Islands of Tahiti, local authorities have established strong sanitary measures allowing the destination to avoid the spread of the virus. The Islands of Tahiti has continued its efforts by adopting a strict and innovative health protocol for the reopening of international borders from the 15th of July 2020:
A RT-PCR test to be carried out within three days prior to one’s international departure to French Polynesia;
An online ETIS (Electronic Travel Information System) declaration form (much like a sanitary ESTA);
A RT-PCR self-test to be carried out 4 days after the visitor’s arrival.
This rigorous protocol has been successful to date. Specifically, it allowed health authorities to rapidly detect the first case of a tourist carrying the COVID-19 virus aboard the Paul Gauguin cruise ship and to isolate this person immediately on August 1, 2020, thus controlling the chain of transmission aboard the cruise ship. No additional cases among the passengers and crew were detected thereafter.
However, as in other countries, The Islands of Tahiti are facing an increase in the number of cases. From July 15, 2020, there have been 77 recorded cases. These originate mostly from two clusters that have generated numerous local contaminations. Indeed, the majority of the cases are residents or newcomers who have come to settle in the French Polynesia.
The foreseeable and non-reversible increase of these cases, pushed the local authorities, who have demonstrated their control of the spread of the virus since the beginning of the crisis, to reinforce the sanitary protocol.
Authorities have announced four measures to be applied in French Polynesia during 14 days (subject to extension) from August 12 to August 25:
The closure of all nightclubs;
Any meetings of more than 50 people on the public highway or in any place open to the public will be subject to prior permission from the Office of the High Commissioner;
The application of strict rules in restaurants and bars (visitors must be seated, maintain a minimum distance of 1 meter between each table, and wearing a mask is mandatory by everyone when moving around the establishment);
Reinforced control and sanctions in the event of non-compliance with the mandatory regulation of wearing masks in all shops, water taxis/ferry transportation, airplanes, public ground transport, airports and ferry terminals (fine of approximately €750).
The importance of these protective rules and the need for the local population, as well as incoming visitors or returning residents, friends and family, to respect them, was highlighted during the official speech of the President and the High Commissioner on the 11th of August, at the same time as the announcement of these four health measures.
“Indeed, the protocol and the sanitary measures will be effective provided that visitors as well as the residents of The Islands of Tahiti respect them in French Polynesia”, according to Jean-Marc Mocellin, Chief Executive Officer of Tahiti Tourisme.
To underscore this need, a reminder of the rules to respect is provided to local and international visitors upon their arrival at the airport which invite them to take the right steps to ensure the well-being of visitors and the local population.