HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — The Palau government has confirmed its first case of Covid-19 but the patient was infected the SARS-Cov-2 virus in January.
Officials said the historical case is of someone who continues to shed viral RNA long after recovering from the illness.
Months after contracting Covid-19 the person was vaccinated, said Gaafar J. Uherbelau, administrator of Health Policy, Research & Development at the Ministry of Health.
The person, who arrived in Palau from Guam on May 9, was fully vaccinated and had two negative PCR tests prior to boarding the flight, officials stated. Upon arriving in Palau, the person and their travel companions had to quarantine for 14 days with a test on days seven and 14 and both of those tests returned negative.
After completing quarantine, travelers are required to follow guidelines but can go out into the community. However, a third test is required on day 21. It was this test that returned a positive result.
Dr. Victor Yano said this case has a low risk of infecting others.
Uherbelau noted that as soon as the positive results were confirmed, the person was placed in isolation and contact tracing started. Others who had been in contact with the person, including travel companions, were placed in quarantine; thus far, close contacts have tested negative for the virus.
Additional contact tracing will continue, Uherbelau said.
President Surangel Whipps Jr. said 97% of Palau’s adult population has been fully vaccinated.
“We need to understand we need to move from Covid-free to Covid-19 safe. We’re opening with care and the protocols we have in place sometimes people feel are extreme but it’s about opening with care,” the president stated.
Reporters at the Monday morning press conference asked what establishments or facilities the person in question had visited prior to testing positive and being isolated.
Uherbelau asked the public to be patient as contact tracing continues, noting that he expected others to be contacted. However, if during their investigation process, they determine there's a need to disclose a list of establishments that were visited they would do so.
Dr. Thane Hancock, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who is in the Federated States of Micronesia, also participated in the press conference called Monday morning.
Hancock lauded Palau’s procedures, which go beyond CDC recommendations. He said the Ministry of Health’s processes of quarantine and testing at three different stages are performed in an abundance of caution that will go a long way to protecting the community.