French Polynesia: Covid19 Field Report

Having left their boat “Lady Jane” in French Polynesia while returning to the UK for six weeks, Maria and Allen Wadsworth returned to FP at the start of March to put the boat back in the water and resume cruising. Now anchored in the Marquesas, off the small island of Tahuata, they report on their situation now that stricter restrictions have been introduced.

Published 3 years ago

Vaitahu Bay in Tahuata

We are in French Polynesia and are currently (as of March 18th ), anchored in Vaitahu Bay in Tahuata, Marquesas. We don’t have an internet signal here but asked a friend of ours to send us the up to date Noonsite info. on FP. After reading it I wanted to send some additional information and what our experience is so far since the tightening of movement between islands.

Whilst the information being provided to “visitors” is that if you are here then you should try to repatriate yourself as soon as possible – this seems to be a general note to people on holiday. We don’t believe there is any real fear that the government will refuse entry to anyone or to ask all the cruising sailors to leave, but this seems to be the panic among some liveaboards.
There are a lot of cruisers that seem to be in deep panic mode and affecting everyone around them, they seem to think the apocalypse is actually happening! They are also panic buying supplies, which will not endear us to the locals if Covid19 carries on for longer than expected.

Our experience from the town on Tahuata is that they are happy for us to stay here and come and buy groceries provided we ensure we wash our hands before entering the store. They would like us to wear a mask (they aren’t aware that a mask doesn’t stop the spread of a virus) but stay away from the locals. They don’t have any medicine here to deal with any health issues.

We have made a decision to stay on the boat for the 15 days as requested and not to upset the locals by breaching this rule, we believe that this is the only way we can make them trust that we are also concerned for their safety.

We haven’t heard anything from any new boats arriving, we saw a new American boat arrive into Fatu Hiva on the 17th, they must now be in Hiva Oa or Nuku Hiva. The official announcements on the radio were that new boats need to ring or email the authorities. These announcements have now stopped and there was nothing heard on the radio at all yesterday.

We’ve not heard anything about boats being redirected to Tahiti, however our insurance (UK Pantaenius) will not provide cover for named tropical storms in the region between 10 deg south and 30 deg south during the period November 1st to 1st May. Tahiti (Papeete) is approximately 17° 32’ south, therefore within that exclusion band.

One of the boats here has set up a WhatsApp group for boats in FP. We can’t see what is being added now but you may wish to join to get some first hand knowledge.

This was the announcement sent out from Tahiti to FP citizens:

Dear Polynesian citizens,

As you can see, the situation is evolving day by day and the epidemic is spreading at high speed in all countries of the world. As far as we are concerned, this epidemic is also progressing very quickly. At the start of the week, we were in the presence of three clearly identified cases with reinforced health monitoring. Over 160 people were followed. Since the beginning of the week, the number of people infected has increased from 3 to 15.

We have just taken a new step and this requires us to adapt and react even faster. In fact, the situation is becoming extremely urgent and we are obliged to move immediately to the next stage, that is to say to PHASE 3 which consists of combating the spread of the epidemic by all means. We have to contain it and we therefore have to harden our devices even more quickly. This new step will require a lot of rigor, will create a lot of disruption and have an impact on our lifestyles. This is the case today for all the populations of the world. It is the health of all that is at stake. It is the health of the entire population, it is the health of our children, it is the health of our elders, it is the health of the most vulnerable. We must do everything to preserve them, out of solidarity, out of love but also out of a sense of responsibility.

There is a danger, as I said, because it is a contamination that goes very quickly and can quickly affect a large number of us and make many victims, among the most vulnerable people but also among those in healthy. There is danger. So we have to fight. The most important battle is before us. And we all must collectively be there. This will require everyone’s commitment, a collective commitment for the benefit of each person. I appeal to your sense of community.

The new measures that we are taking today and that we are announcing to you, President FRITCH and myself, reflect a strong commitment from the State and the Country. They are intended to protect you, to protect us. They are binding, but I know I can count on all of you. As of today, this Friday March 20 at midnight, we ask the people of French Polynesia to put themselves in confinement.

– What does that mean ?

This means that this invisible virus is prevented from infecting all of us. Because it is we who circulate the virus through our contacts, through our social interactions, through our proximity, through our movements. He is a sneaky enemy who leaves us little luck. We must therefore fight it with our weapons: our sense of the collective and of discipline. There is no vaccine and the only remedy is our behavior which must be exemplary to prevent it from circulating as much as possible.

– How will this confinement happen?

From Saturday, all rallies on the public highway and in the private sphere are prohibited. This means that outside gatherings, family or friendly gatherings will be prohibited. It will no longer be possible to walk, meet friends, go to the beach. This means that the Heiva 2020 dance competition is canceled, as groups cannot prepare them. You must limit your contacts outside your home as much as possible. Concretely, you must stay at home and absolutely limit your trips outside.

All shops will be closed except food stores, service stations, banks, bakeries, health structures and pharmacies. Restaurants and caravans will no longer be able to accommodate the public, but will be able to sell their take-out meals. Clearly, you should only go out for professional or essential reasons. And of course by scrupulously respecting the barrier gestures.

– To go to work, only people traveling from their home to work will be able to move, because economic life must continue. We need activity, we need vital services to continue to function. Where possible, telework should be preferred. In your workplace, you must strictly comply with the barrier measures.

– You can also go shopping in the same conditions. Do not panic, there is no food shortage. As you know, food stores are open every day. We will determine with the shops how to access the stores to limit contact.

– You can also go to your medical appointments.

– Finally, in the immediate vicinity of your home, it will be possible to go out alone or practice physical activity individually provided you do not come into contact with another person. A parent may, however, accompany a child on this occasion.

Details of these measures will be announced during the day. This entire system will be subject to regular checks by the police. It is not the fight against delinquency, it is the respect of citizen and health measures intended to protect us. I will also ask the tavana to activate their communal safeguard plans to implement this common device by commune.

This system is used for at least 15 days and will be subject to reassessment depending on the evolution of the situation.

Maria Wadsworth
SY Lady Jane


Please share your current experience with COVID-19 restrictions and how it has affected your cruising plans. Contact Sue at [email protected] with your field report.


The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of or World Cruising Club.

Related to following destinations: , ,

Related to the following Cruising Resources: ,

You must Login or Register to submit comments.