Two new COVID cases in border quarantine

Prime Minister, Bob Loughman, has confirmed two new cases of COVID-19 in Vanuatu – both detected in quarantine.

Mr Loughman says the two came from New Caledonia last week.

He says amongst a total of 18 passengers who came in a flight from New Caledonia last week and have been tested in quarantine, the two tested positive for COVID-19.

Prime Minister Loughman says the two positive cases have shown no symptoms of COVID-19 and are to be transferred to the COVID-19 isolation ward in Port Vila.

The Prime Minister says the passengers had gone through COVID-19 tests in New Caledonia prior to travelling to Vanuatu and at that time they tested negative.

He says New Caledonia health officials had also provided clearances for both people to travel to Vanuatu.

The Prime Minister says the passengers arrived on Friday and on Sunday they were tested again for COVID-19 by Vanuatu health officials and the two then tested positive. More tests have been conducted on other passengers from the same flight.

He says the results of those tests will be made public.

“Currently the Ministry of Health is running contact tracing on frontline workers who were on duty when the flight from New Caledonia arrived.

“Anyone who has had close contact with the passengers will need to go into quarantine,” the Prime Minister said.

“We still don’t know whether the type of COVID-19 these passengers have is of the delta variant. The World Health Organisation is assisting in sending the tests overseas for further testing to identify the type of COVID-19 and it will take some time for the results to get back.”

As of Monday, Efate and its offshore islands have moved to alert level one which means there are COVID-19 cases at the border. Everywhere else remains at level zero.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been five active COVID-19 cases in Vanuatu, all of which have been detected while passengers were in transit or in quarantine. There has been no community transmission of COVID-19 in Vanuatu.

From over 23,000 tests conducted in Australia and New Zealand on people arriving from Vanuatu, none have detected COVID-19.

Mr Loughman says all the passengers who have come in have observed every requirement for health clearance and have gone through quarantine.

The Prime Minister says Vanuatu has been successful in containing COVID-19 cases in quarantine since the beginning of the pandemic.

“With that, I want to ask the public to remain calm and follow the advice from the Ministry of Health.”

The Prime Minister urged people to visit the Government’s Health Promotion Vanuatu Facebook page.

“Everyone must continue to wash their hands with soap and water. Don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth and stay at home if you feel sick,” he said.

Mr Loughman also called on people who have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine to get one and for people not to spread misleading information about COVID and effective of vaccines.

The Ministry of Health has called for media and the public to respect the privacy of the people who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The news of the positive cases has resulted in panic buying in Port Vila with many people rushing into shops to buy essential items such as food.

At Nambatu Au Bon Marche Supermarket in Port Vila, people were using huge shopping bags for their purchases and crowds exceeded the usual Monday afternoon numbers.

People have started wearing face masks again and handwashing stations were activated in front of business houses before the prime minister made the update on the COVID-19 positive cases.

Health officials are continuing to roll-out COVID-19 vaccinations across the country, with vaccinations underway in Shefa, Sanma, Tafea and Malampa provinces. Vaccination will commence in Penama and Torba provinces in November.

Since Vanuatu started its vaccination program in June, more than 96,000 people across Vanuatu have had their first jab or are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as of 19 October.

In Port Vila, vaccination is being conducted at George Pompidou Vaccination Centre, with mobile teams operating elsewhere. The centre operates from 8.30am to 3.30pm Monday to Friday.

The Ministry of Health is working to source more vaccines so it can protect all eligible members of the population from COVID.

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