Strong COVID-19 protocols deliver good results

The Vanuatu Government says it is proud of the “strong and effective” COVID-19 protocols it put in place last year.

On national radio this week, Russel Tamata, the Director General of the Ministry of Health and Spokesperson for COVID-19, said with the protocols in place, just one case of COVID-19 had been recorded.

Mr Tamata says although Vanuatu has repatriated around 5000 of its citizens from overseas, it kept positive cases of COVID-19 down to the one case – involving a man returning from the United States.

“So far in our region, Vanuatu is the only country that has repatriated so many of its citizens from overseas [during this pandemic],” Mr Tamata said.

“The good thing is that while our country has repatriated many of its citizens, there was only one positive case of COVID-19 and we were able to contain it and now we are COVID-19 free.”

“This is something we should be proud of,” he said.

“The Ministry of Health and its partners have worked hard to ensure that Vanuatu has stayed safe.”

Dr Philip Guyant of the World Health Organization says many factors contributed to Vanuatu’s successful repatriation operations during the global pandemic.

He says the key factors were: Vanuatu’s strong COVID-19 protocols and the testing of nationals returning from COVID-19 high-risk countries before they entered Vanuatu.

Dr Guyant says, “Vanuatu has a high number of seasonal workers who travel to Australia and New Zealand.”

“Because they have taken COVID-19 preventive measures seriously, they have not returned infected with the virus.”

He says strong information campaigns across Vanuatu have also prevented the spread of COVID-19.

“A lot of public information about the virus has gone out across the country through radio and other means which has led to only one positive case of COVID-19 occurring here.”

Mr Tamata says the current third phase of repatriation is due to finish in March.

The third phase was due to be the final repatriation exercise but Mr Tamata says with Ni-Vanuatu still travelling abroad, strong protocols will still apply to citizens returning in the future.

Mr Tamata says the Government has asked the COVID-19 Task Force Committee to develop new protocols to cover “a special group of people” who will need to enter Vanuatu.

“In this third repatriation phase we are focusing on bringing home our citizens and are also looking at bringing in people who need to come into the country for critical reasons,” he said.

The “special group of people” protocols cover people coming into the country to carry out tasks that Ni-Vanuatu people cannot handle.

For example, a group of Korean engineers recently entered Vanuatu to design and survey the South Santo Road for tar sealing.

“We have taken our proposal to the National COVID-19 Taskforce Committee but the Council of Ministers will have to approve it before we can take up this initiative,” he said.

Mr Tamata said the COVID-19 Task Force had also been tasked with looking at the operation of the Tamtam Bubble which was to link Vanuatu with COVID-19 free countries in the region.

Mr Tamata also acknowledged the important role that “the prayers of all church groups and the people of Vanuatu” had played in the nation’s fight against COVID-19.

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