Declaration of Public Health Emergency Amended; COVID-19 Vaccines Now Mandatory for FSM Citizens Residing in the FSM
News release from FSM Information Services
PALIKIR, Pohnpei—On July 29th, 2021, the Office of the President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) received from the 22nd Congress of the FSM Congressional Resolution (C.R.) 22-33, which amended His Excellency David W. Panuelo’s January 31st, 2020 Declaration of Public Health Emergency.
While much of C.R. 22-33 offers no change from the status quo of the past several months and is thematically similar to the previously enacted C.R. 22-06, C.R. 21-252, C.R. 21-228, C.R. 21-185, and C.R. 21-175, there are several substantial and significant amendments that will impact repatriation of stranded citizens and residents.
An amendment on Page 5 of 21 in the Resolution notes that, as of July 25th, 2021, 49.6% of the eligible adult population defined as citizens 18 years and older have been fully vaccinated, and formalizes that the “FSM’s COVID-19 vaccination goal is to transition from COVID-19 free to COVID-19 protected with at least 70% vaccination coverage.” This emphasizes that the Executive and Legislative Branches of the FSM National Government are cooperative, aligned, and in agreement in this area.
An amendment on Page 7 of 21 in the Resolution notes that “Government employees or workers hired to assist the National and State Government with essential services” are amongst the categories of individuals eligible for repatriation efforts, in addition to the historical categories of medical patients, capacity-building personnel, etc. The practical effect is that non-medical professionals, including teachers, consultants, engineers, etc. are eligible for entry into the FSM on a case-by-case basis as determined by the COVID-19 Task Force.
An amendment on Page 7 and 8 of 21 in the Resolution notes that citizens who are currently free of COVID-19, but had “been infected with COVID-19 in the past but had since fully recovered and determined to be non-infectious according to established health protocols and guideline[s] of the National Task Force” are amongst the categories of citizens eligible for repatriation. Page 10 of 21 in the Resolution notes that it is still mandated for repatriating persons to be fully vaccinated, and to either test negative for COVID-19 OR to have medical documentation confirming recovery of prior infection. The practical effect is that a citizen who came up as COVID-19 positive on previous repatriation efforts, but is now free of infection, will be able to come home.
Clarifying language on Page 8 of 21 in the Resolution notes that “if quarantine is ever applied, it shall be so applied without discrimination.” The practical effect is that no individual is exempt from quarantine. The intent is that quarantine will be applied based on the most recent guidelines and protocols, which will be revised as vaccination rates increase and risk profiles decline.
An amendment on Page 8 of 21 in the Resolution notes that “interstate travel on international commercial airlines shall be permitted for personnel providing technical assistance supporting the FSM’s COVID-19 preparedness and response….” The practical effect is that FSM National Government and State Government personnel can travel on international commercial carriers to other FSM States if the purpose of their travel is to provide assistance against the COVID-19 Pandemic. A hypothetical example would be the movement of National Government personnel based in Pohnpei State flying to Chuuk State to ready the latter for repatriation efforts.
An amendment on Page 17 of 21 in the Resolution notes that the FSM COVID-19 Task Force is mandated to intensify the Nation-wide vaccination effort. Thus, “All FSM citizens residing in the FSM are required to undergo COVID-19 vaccination subject to the protocol of the Task Force.” Any employee of the FSM National Government and its offices or agencies who fails to comply with this requirement within 30 days, absent reasonable justification, shall be placed on leave without pay. The practical effect is that all FSM citizens who are eligible to be vaccinated, with limited exception, are required to become vaccinated.
An amendment on Page 18 of 21 in the Resolution notes that the FSM COVID-19 Task Force “shall be granted reasonable flexibility with respect to the implementing details of this emergency declaration, in recognition of the scientific expertise and capacity available to the Task Force in enforcing its guidelines and protocols.” The practical effect is that as vaccination rates increase and risk profiles decline, the COVID-19 Task Force is empowered to make appropriate adjustments to how the Declaration of Public Health Emergency is implemented.
Unless extended, the Declaration of Public Health Emergency expires September 30th, 2021.
“Just today I was watching the Honorable Josh Tenorio, Lieutenant Governor of the U.S. Territory of Guam, describe how Guam has already reached an 80% vaccination rate,” President Panuelo said in a statement. “The FSM still has so much work to do to conquer the Pandemic, and so I applaud the Honorable Wesley W. Simina, Speaker of the 22nd FSM Congress, the Honorable Ferny S. Perman, Chair of the Congressional Committee on Health & Social Affairs, and all Honorable Senators, for their leadership on this issue, and for taking actions today for our Nation’s prosperity tomorrow. This Paradise in Our Backyards can, and must, and will, overcome the COVID-19 Pandemic, and emerge stronger.”
Citizens interested in reading C.R. 22-33 may find it here: https://gov.fm/files/CR_22-33_CD2_2.pdf