As the Conch Republic cancels Independence Day celebrations and the Empire of Austenasia closes its borders, Lonely Planet checks in on the world’s micronations to see how they are reacting to the coronavirus.
Micronations are renegade states with eccentric leaders and unorthodox policies that earn them few allies on the world stage. Mostly self-proclaimed republics, few are legally recognised by any governments, so how are they reacting to coronavirus? Much like the rest of us, apparently.
Trying to strike a balance between protecting public health and its tiny tourist industry, the Republic of Molossia – a landlocked micronation in Nevada, USA – has announced new restrictions on foreign arrivals.
The government, which is still at war with East Germany (a state that ceased to exist in 1990), has advised visitors who aren’t part of organised tours to stay away and has forbidden gatherings on the 7.3-acre republic.
“Of course, we are so small, that’s rather easy to do,” said President Kevin Baugh.
It’s unclear how the restrictions will impact Molossia’s economy and its currency, the Valora, which can ill afford an economic shock, pegged as it is to the value of chocolate chip cookie dough. President Baugh dismissed fears about the economic impact of COVID-19 on his micronation. “We’re rolling in the dough,” he told Lonely Planet.
Following similar moves by the EU, the Empire of Austenasia – a constitutional monarchy that rules over 24 properties in the United Kingdom – has restricted entry to many of its territories, including Palasia, a landlocked semi-detached house near Thetford, England. Palasia’s border with the UK has been closed to all but essential travel after one resident had to self-isolate.
Across the pond in Bregusland – an Austenasia crown dependency surrounded by Arizona – non-residents have been barred from entering as cases in the neighbouring US rise. Echoing other world leaders, Emperor Jonathan I appealed for calm.
“Despite the rapid spread of this disease, panic and overreactions will not help. We therefore call on individuals to react calmly, sensibly, proportionately and responsibly,” he said. “There is no need to stockpile food, toiletries and cleaning products. A lack of goods in shops simply means that others will go without.”
With colonies on Mars and Pluto, the Aerican Empire is perhaps less exposed to coronavirus than most micronations. Nevertheless, its capital, “a house-sized area” in Montreal, is in lockdown and its Embassy of Everything has closed.
His Imperial Majesty Doctor Eric Lis MD, CM, FRCPC, Emperor of the Aerican Empire, called on his subjects to support each other during the crisis.
“The most valuable service a citizen can provide to other citizens is to share a kind word, a comforting gesture, or a joke to someone in need,” he said. “By supporting each other emotionally, citizens protect the physical well-being of other citizens, and their extended networks.”
However, he acknowledged that his empire’s non-existent health service could not care for poorly citizens. “Although the Empire stands for socialised medicine and universal healthcare as one of its primary principles, it is openly acknowledged that we cannot actually provide this to our citizens,” he said. “The empire is in the privileged position of relying on other nations to care for our people.”
The Conch Republic, meanwhile, has cancelled its Independence Days celebrations (because one day isn’t enough), which were set for the week commencing 17 April. The island micronation in Key West declared independence from Washington in 1982 after the US Border Patrol set up a checkpoint on the bridge between Key West and the rest of Florida.
Vehicle searches took so long that locals started flying to the mainland instead. The mayor at the time, Dennis Wardlow, got so irate that he declared independence from the US. The roadblock was subsequently lifted, but Washington refuses to recognise the Conch Republic as a sovereign state.
Now, in an ironic twist, the republic has cut itself off from the mainland by limiting inbound travel. It has also closed tourist attractions. The measures were implemented to prevent COVID-19 from reaching the republic, a feat that would enable the micronation to live up to its proud slogan: “We seceded where others failed.”
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