COVID-infected gas tanker crew depart Vanuatu
Eleven crew members who have tested positive for COVID-19 aboard the gas carrier, Inge Kosan, departed Port Vila Harbour on Wednesday.
Last week, Vanuatu authorities detained the gas tanker after one of its crew, a Filipino man, was found dead, floating outside Pango Point on Efate and later tested as COVID-19 positive.
Vanuatu’s spokesperson for COVID-19, Russel Tamata, confirmed the ship had left Port Vila Harbor on Wednesday evening.
Mr Tamata said the gas vessel had 14 crew members, of whom 12 had tested positive for COVID-19, including the deceased Filipino man; and two had tested negative.
He said when the vessel came into Port Vila harbor on 9 April, no crew members had disembarked the vessel.
He says the 24 Ni-Vanuatu who had come into contact with the deceased man at Pango Point had been tested five times for COVID-19 but all tests had come back negative.
Mr Tamata says the people tested will be released from quarantine today.
The Vanuatu Government has lifted the domestic travel restrictions it had imposed on Efate Island following the positive tests, and people can now travel in and out of Efate Island.
In the wake of the incident, the Prime Minister, Bob Loughman, has assured the public that Vanuatu’s COVID-19 prevention measures and border protocols are effective and can be trusted.
Mr Loughman said the deceased Filipino crew member’s body is being cared for in line with international COVID-19 protocols.
“This means there is no risk of the virus being passed onto another man or woman,” Prime Minister Loughman said.
He said the Government is making arrangements with Inge Konsan authorities to have the deceased’s body returned to his family in the Philippines.
Mr Loughman said in line with international health regulations, Vanuatu’s Ministry of Health will report to other countries on health issues aboard the gas tanker.
Vanuatu’s COVID-19 spokesperson says under Vanuatu’s COVID-19 protocols, a government-appointed doctor boards every vessel entering Vanuatu and tests all crew members for COVID-19.
Mr Tamata says health officials boarding international vessels to do the tests are dressed in fully-protective clothing and carry equipment for their protection against the virus.
He says in the case of the gas tanker Inge Kosan, the doctor that boarded the vessel had strictly applied COVID-19 rules.
He says this is not the first time the Inge Kosan had entered Vanuatu waters, as it has been coming to the country regularly to deliver gas supplies.
The Prime Minister said Vanuatu has been able to contain COVID-19, even in this case, and remains at the 2A Scenario level, indicating there are confirmed cases in quarantine.
He reminded the public to get the latest updates on COVID-19 from the Vanuatu Ministry of Health website at https://covid19.gov.vu.
“God bless us all and he alone will protect us,” Prime Minister Loughman said.