By RNZ Pacific
Tourism is set to suffer a sharp decline in French Polynesia as the territory is about to close the border on Wednesday in response to the latest French government decision aimed at slowing the covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
At the weekend, France suspended all travel from and to non-European Union destinations except in urgent cases, with the ban being extended to Tahiti on February 3.
The French High Commission in Pape’ete said in contrast to earlier French lockdowns, this time French Polynesia’s tourism sector would no longer be granted an exemption.
It also said tourists still in Tahiti were allowed to leave as their travel home was being considered as a reason for an exemption.
Tahiti-Infos reports that the territory authorities have announced that they would take “emergency” measures over jobs and businesses.
Tourism and air transport professionals say they are devastated.
‘Great threat’ for Polynesians
Overseas Territories Minister Sébastien Lecornu said in a TNTV television broadcast from Paris that Polynesians faced a “great threat” from three variants of covid-19 with an “intense and rapid spread”.
Last July, French Polynesia re-opened its borders and abolished mandatory quarantine requirements to boost tourism.
As the only accessible international tourist destination in the South Pacific, it attracted visitors from mainly France and the United States.
Since the reopening in July, it has registered 18,000 Covid-19 cases, including 132 deaths.
During the preceding lockdown, French Polynesia recorded 62 infections and eliminated the virus.
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.