New Caledonia ponders compulsory COVID-19 vaccination

Doctors and employers in New Caledonia have called for compulsory COVID-19 vaccinations, fearing a disaster if the Delta variant were to be introduced.

New Caledonia, which closed its borders in March last year, is COVID-19 free but just 32 percent of the population has been vaccinated.

A leading physician Thierry De Greslan told a meeting in Noumea that the number of vaccinated people must be doubled within a month and to achieve this, jabs must be made mandatory.

The head of the employer's federation Mimsy Daly said all medical staff, including pharmacists, should be mobilised to roll out vaccines every day as to give the territory a chance to deal with the threat.

De Greslan said that failing to attain at least 60 percent coverage risked the collapse of the health care system. He said to use the 49 intensive care units ready for a possible outbreak, the hospital would need 144 trained nurses, yet there are now fewer than 30 available.

Last week, President Louis Mapou said compulsory vaccinations were no longer a taboo.

The border is open for repatriations and for urgent travel, including the rotation of French personnel, such as police officers.

France is responsible for border security while under the autonomy provisions of the Noumea Accord the New Caledonian government oversees the health care system.

Unlike in mainland France, New Caledonia has a two-week mandatory quarantine requirement in government-run facilities for arrivals from outside, while the French armed forces operate separate isolation quarters.

Under updated rules, fully vaccinated travellers need to quarantine for seven days only.

To date, New Caledonia has recorded 135 COVID-19 cases, but no fatalities.

Half of the infections were detected in March when the territory had a community outbreak, which prompted a month-long lockdown.

New Caledonia imported the virus from Wallis and Futuna when the two territories operated a travel bubble.

With both French territories again COVID-free, the bubble is set to reopen on Monday.