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Pacific News Minute: Kiribati reopening to international visitors

Tarawa atoll Kiribati
Richard Vogel/AP
FILE - In this March 30, 2004 file photo, Tarawa atoll, Kiribati, is seen in an aerial view. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)

A country in the central Pacific is reopening its border to international visitors. It has been closed for more than two years due to the pandemic.

Kiribati is located about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaiʻi. It’s made up of more than 30 atolls and is a part of Micronesia.

The Pacific Island Times reports Kiribati was among the last countries in the world to be hit by the coronavirus. It has recorded a total of 3,430 positive cases with 13 deaths.

Reeti Onorio, deputy CEO of the Tourism Authority of Kiribati, says the border closure that began in March 2020 had a devastating impact on tourism operators.

But she says there is optimism for a sustainable return to normalcy as the country began welcoming international travelers last week.

The tourism office says Fiji and the Solomon Islands will serve as connecting hubs to the nation’s capital of Tarawa from key tourist markets of Australia, New Zealand, North America and Asia.

Direct weekly flights on Fiji Airways from Honolulu to Kiribati’s second international port, Christmas Island, are expected to begin later this year.

The tourism authority says travelers must be fully vaccinated and will be required to undertake a COVID-19 test within three days of arrival.

Derrick Malama is the local anchor of Morning Edition.
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