Swift measures keep devastating COVID-19 health effects away

United Nations resident co-ordinator Sanaka Samarasinha (right) speaks with members of the Market Vendors Association in western Viti Levu. Picture: SUPPLIED

Swift preventative measures have spared Pacific Island countries (PICs) from the devastating health impacts of COVID-19.

This according to a statement released by United Nations resident co-ordinator in the Pacific, Sanaka Samarasinha this week to mark International Day of Democracy.

“However, the scale of the economic, social and political impacts have yet to be fully assessed,” he said.

Mr Samarasinha said most countries declared national states of emergencies and public health emergencies, increased State powers to put in place measures that included limiting public gatherings, movement and assembly.

“It is crucial that the processes of enforcement of these emergency measures always adhere to key democratic principles.”

He said PICs had a strong responsibility to strike a balance between COVID-19 preventative measures and responses, while protecting democratic processes and civic space with full respect for human rights and the rule of law.

“Responsive, transparent and accountable COVID-19 responses are critical to democracy.

“Communities have been bearing the brunt of the impact of the pandemic, placing considerable strains on social cohesion, magnifying existing inequality and further creating social divide.”

Mr Samarasinha said dedicated support and investment in support of vulnerable and marginalised groups was “crucial and more urgent than ever to address the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on vulnerable groups and individuals”.

He said this included persons living in poverty, those without access to water, sanitation or adequate housing, persons with disabilities, the elderly, migrants, refugees, youths, women, children, representatives of the LGBTIQ community and people in detention or institutions.

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