Twenty-four in quarantine in gas tanker COVID case

Twenty-four Vanuatu locals are in quarantine after coming into close contact with the body of a deceased Filipino crewman who had been aboard a gas tanker that arrived in Port Vila Harbour last week.

The dead man’s body was found floating off Pango Point on Efate Island.

After the Vila Central Hospital tested the man’s body as being COVID-19 positive, the Ministry of Health ran contact tracing to identify who had come into contact with him.

To support contract tracing, the Government imposed restrictions on the island of Efate, with Prime Minister, Bob Loughman, announcing a three-day ban on travel out of the island.

Vanuatu’s COVID-19 Spokesperson, Russel Tamata, says 16 contacts of the deceased man were traced over the weekend, soon after his body was found to be COVID-19 positive.

That number has now increased to 24 and all are in quarantine in Port Vila with their costs being covered by the Government.

Mr Tamata says the contact tracing process is continuing and it is possible the number of close contacts will increase.

He says of the 24 close contacts, seven are primary contacts – meaning they had touched the deceased man’s body.

He says health officials have begun COVID testing the 24 people in quarantine and the results will come out sometime this week.

Mr Tamata says health authorities have also COVID tested the other crew members of the gas tanker – the Inge Kosan.

He says if those results are positive, the Government will take the necessary steps to deal with the situation.

The spokesperson says the risk of COVID-19 community transmission from the incident is low.

Mr Tamata says according to the World Health Organisation there is no evidence that a deceased person with COVID-19 can pass on the virus.

The Consul for Philippines in Vanuatu, Florentino Serrano, says he is waiting for advice from the Vanuatu Ministry of Health as to when the deceased man’s body will be flown back to the Philippines.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 spokesperson is calling on the Vanuatu public to continue to practice proper handwashing and the covering of the mouth when coughing or sneezing to lower COVID-19 risks.

And, Mr Tamata says anyone who wants to get a COVID-19 test at should do so.

“The Vila Central Hospital has a large number of COVID-19 test kits for the use of the citizens of Vanuatu,” he said.

“If you want to get a test, go to the Vila Central Hospital and ask for a test.”

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