Marshall Islands Correspondent


MAJURO, Marshall Islands — “The Marshall Islands has exceeded most expectations to deliver testing and treatment for large numbers of people, and to provide care for those with COVID-19,” said Dr. Richard Brostrom before he departed Majuro on Aug. 24.

Brostrom, field medical officer of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Field Medical Officer who joined a medical surge support team in the country, was most recently in Kosrae and Pohnpei assisting the Federated States of Micronesia’s efforts to mitigate its first COVID-19 outbreak, which started in July.

Showing the Omicron variant BA.5’s speed of spread — Johns Hopkins University — which tracks COVID-19 cases globally, reported that the Marshall Islands set a seven-day all-time record for the rate of positive cases, with more than 30,000 cases per one million population. 

“But what [the Johns Hopkins data] also shows is a jurisdiction that is able to test, treat and provide access to healthcare,” Brostrom said. “BA.5 will behave the same everywhere,” he said, making the point that the key was preparedness. “The Marshall Islands had access points (for people to get tested and treated), it was prepared, and it handled thousands of people in a short period of time.”

Jack Niedenthal, secretary of Health and Human Services for the Marshalls, said, “As this current outbreak of COVID-19 begins to lessen, the facts say, even with the complicated logistical issues and limited resources that we have in the Marshall Islands, and even though we have a very immuno-compromised population, we have had one of the best responses to this pandemic the world has seen.”

Speaking on Aug. 25, he said, “Our goal from the beginning has been resolute — let the science catch up to the virus, and now we are seeing the result of over two years of diligent prevention and preparation.”

The widespread use of PaxLovid has been seen by many as a magic bullet, reducing severe symptoms for many residents who tested positive.

Niedenthal said the Marshall Islands is one of the only countries “in the world to have been able to offer people of all ages vaccines before we had community spread of the virus.” He said, “Our current fatality rate of 0.1% of COVID-19 cases ranks as among the best in the world, with only Palau having a similar fatality rate for this virus.” mbj