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  • Pitcairn
  • Peter Clegg (bio)

The islands of Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno (commonly known as Pitcairn) make up a single territory, the last remaining British Overseas Territory in the Pacific Ocean. During the period under review, two key events shaped the territory. First, there was the continuing threat posed by the covid-19 pandemic. If covid-19 had entered Pitcairn, it would have posed an immediate existential threat to a small and aging population. Pitcairn's isolation was an advantage in minimizing its exposure, but because of the severe limitations on travel, accessing health care off island was a real concern. Second, and related to the economic impacts of covid-19, was discussion between Pitcairn and the UK government regarding levels of funding for the territory. This review also highlights several other developments, but it first considers Pitcairn's response to covid-19.

Despite the challenges, there were several positive developments in relation to covid-19. The first and most important was that Pitcairn remained covid-19 free; it was one of only ten nations and territories that had not yet recorded a positive case (Pitcairn Miscellany 2021c, 5). However, there was a scare in mid-July 2020 when Pitcairn's medical officer was "unable to currently confirm that Pitcairn is no longer covid-19 free" after she determined that five returning travelers had not adequately adhered to isolation requirements while in New Zealand. In response, she recommended that the Pitcairn Island Council limit social gatherings for fourteen days. The recommendation was discussed by the Council, but it was not accepted. It felt there was "insufficient evidence to support [it]" (pic 2020a, 6). Fortunately, no cases were subsequently reported. Another positive development was the vaccination program funded by the UK government. The AstraZeneca vaccine doses were taken on a fifteen-thousand-mile journey from London to Pitcairn via Dubai and New Zealand. The doses arrived in mid-May 2021, and within a few days, over 80 percent of the population had received the first of two injections (Pitcairn Miscellany 2021b, 2–3). An official from the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (fcdo) stated that the vaccine rollout was "a potent symbol of what being an overseas territory means. It would have been inexplicable if we had not looked after our British communities around the world" (Adams 2021). Prior to the vaccination program, a public meeting was held involving representatives from Public Health England to answer any questions and address any concerns the Islanders had (Pitcairn Miscellany 2021b).

Despite the vaccination program and remaining covid-19 free, Pitcairn struggled with its heightened isolation, particularly in relation to health care off island. There were discussions throughout the period in review regarding the restrictions on [End Page 207] travel to receive medical help. The preferred medivac pathway was to New Zealand, and for those twentytwo Pitcairners who held New Zealand passports, access was relatively straightforward. However, for others, the process was more complicated, and they were required to apply to enter New Zealand on an individual basis; there were no blanket exemptions for medical treatment. It was noted that "there is a lot of concern in the community" (pic 2020c, 4). A route to Tahiti was open, but it was difficult to navigate. Conversely, and not surprisingly, access to Pitcairn remained tightly controlled. It was expected that fewer than twenty people would arrive on Pitcairn during 2020 (fcdo 2021, 8). However, toward the end of the review period, Pitcairners hoped that their border with New Zealand could at least start to be reopened (pic 2021b, 1).

Pitcairn's financial position was also a matter of considerable debate. Even prior to covid-19, Pitcairn received significant funding from the UK, amounting to between 90–95 percent of its budget requirements; the shipping service represented 55 percent of this (fcdo 2021). The UK government noted, perhaps unsurprisingly, that domestic revenue performance was "weak" (fcdo 2021, 7). And with the continuation of the pandemic, what revenue sources existed, particularly from cruise ship visitors, were largely lost. In an article from Asia Pacific Report, Pitcairn Islander Meralda Warren described the situation: "We're very strict. No yachts, no ships are allowed to stop. We've had a...


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