The Covid-19 pandemic is the "job-killer of the century", Fiji's prime minister has said, as economies across the Pacific face collapse from economic and travel shutdowns, exacerbating existing illnesses, and potentially driving people into hunger, The Guardian newspaper reported.
While the number of cases across the Pacific remains low - several countries across the Pacific remain Covid-free and continue to enforce strict border closures - the economic impacts have devastated tourism- and import-dependent economies.
"Covid-19 is clearly the job-killer of the century," Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said.
"You can't suddenly work from home when you earn your pay cheque as a scuba instructor, or in a garment factory dependent on regional supply chains, or as a handicraft maker who usually sells to tourists.
"These are the faces behind the dismal figures for employment, the high human cost of this pandemic, which mounts by the day."
Fiji attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, warned of a "coronavirus cyclone … a perfect storm of climate and Covid-19" that could take Pacific states decades to recover from.
"Today, if you were to ask any small island/developing state's finance or economy minister, they'll tell you that - when compounded by the global pandemic - our usual climate-induced anxiety has escalated into a sense of impending dread. We're all bracing for a ‘coronavirus cyclone' of the century," he wrote on Twitter.
In Polynesia, Cook Islands deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown said the pandemic lockdowns were an "economic tsunami" for the archipelagic nation: the country's finance ministry estimates tourism makes up 65% of the Cooks' economic activity.
A report published by the Hawaii Journal of Health and Social Welfare, argues some measures taken to fight Covid-19 are likely to increase the long-term risk of non-communicable diseases common across the Pacific, such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.
"For example, trade and movement restrictions within and between countries has reduced availability and accessibility to healthier foods, and increased reliance on unhealthy processed foods," the report, led by Dr Si Thu Win Tin from the University of Sydney, said.
Pacific nations are acutely dependent on food imports, many of which have been cut off, or dramatically reduced, because of Covid-19 shutdowns. Small Pacific island states typically produce less than 65% of their country's dietary energy supply domestically.
In parts of Kiribati, the price of rice has risen by 50%. In Fiji, reports to police of thefts from food gardens have skyrocketed.
"In addition, there is potential for individuals becoming less physically active as a result of curfews and restricted movement; abuse of tobacco and alcohol while being isolated at home; and increase in domestic violence compounded by further isolation due to quarantine, social disengagement and unemployment. All these impact individuals' mental wellbeing and overall risks of non-communicable diseases."
The UN's food and agriculture organisation has warned the Covid-19 poses a serious threat to food security and nutrition across Asia and the Pacific.
"Declining incomes may make food, particularly nutritious food, less affordable for some, especially the poor. Disruptions to and possible breakdowns of marketing, logistics and trading systems could make food unavailable in some locations at some times. Hunger and malnutrition could rise."
Australia and New Zealand, key Pacific rim states and donors to the region, have committed to keeping their international food trade open during the pandemic.