A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific may seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic – but residents on Palau say life right now is far from idyllic.
The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere.
A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometres from its nearest neighbours, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific, which has acted as a buffer against the virus.
Along with strict travel restrictions, this seems to have kept infections at bay for a number of nations including Tonga, the Solomons Islands, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia.
There have been several scares on Palau, including a potential case that saw one person placed into quarantine this week as authorities await test results.
Inside Australia’s four remote Antarctic research bases, around 90 people have found themselves ensconced on the only virus-free continent as they watch their old home transform beyond recognition.
There is no need for social distancing in the tundra.
In Palau, residents have been practising social distancing. Doctors are waiting for test kits to arrive from Taiwan. The government is building five isolation rooms that will be able to hold up to 14 patients.
It all feels like waiting for the inevitable.
Palau’s biggest test may yet come with the first positive case.
But even in the most remote corners of the world, the impact of this truly global pandemic is already being felt. Nowhere, it seems, is truly virus-free.