Vanuatu acts to contain first COVID-19 case

Vanuatu’s Council of Ministers has allocated over VT200 million to be used in containing Vanuatu’s first positive case of COVID-19.

On Wednesday, Vanuatu announced its first positive COVID-19 case which was identified in border quarantine.

The Ni-Vanuatu came from the United States through Auckland where he was repatriated along with 152 Vanuatu nationals on 4 November.

Vanuatu’s Prime Minister, Bob Loughman, says the allocated funds will help Vanuatu officials and frontline officers to contain the case.

Prime Minister Loughman thanked two Members of Parliament for Efate and the chiefs for allowing their island to be used as Vanuatu’s sole entry point for repatriated nationals and for the quarantining of these nationals before they travel home to other islands in Vanuatu.

The Government has imposed a ban on people travelling in and out of Efate Island until the COVID-19 testing and contact tracing processes of the first COVID case are complete.

“Everyone must ensure we help our officials so we can contain and manage the current issue,” he said.

Responding to questions from an MP for Efate Rural, Guillion William, about whether or not Efate Island should be isolated from its offshore islands, Prime Minister Loughman said the people of all offshore islands of Efate are still able to move freely within Efate at this stage, until an advisory is issued to stop their movement.

Prime Minister Loughman told the Parliament the Council of Ministers had decided that people who depart Efate Island to go to other islands in Vanuatu, apart from Efate’s offshore islands, will not be permitted to return to Efate until the lockdown is over.

Prime Minister Loughman confirmed the travel ban will remain in place until COVID-19 testing and contact tracing processes on this first COVID case are complete.

“The country will work to contain this first case from spreading,” the Prime Minister said.

“We will firstly trace the people who have come into close contact with the positive case and if their swab test results come back negative [we will have a better idea of where we stand].

“We must not lockdown schools as of yet.”

He says when Vanuatu’s COVID-19 checks detected that a male passenger on the flight from Auckland had a high risk of being COVID-19 positive, officials began applying strict protocols before he entered Vanuatu.

“[On arrival in Port Vila], officials ensured the traveller disembarked the aircraft first, he was led into a bus and was the only passenger on that bus with a driver who is attached to the repatriation quarantine site,” Prime Minister Loughman said.

He says the patient was moved to Vila Central Hospital to an isolation unit on 10 November.

A Luganville Member of Parliament, Matai Seremaiah, acknowledged the Prime Minister for his clear explanations on the handling of the first positive COVID-19 case in Vanuatu.

Prime Minister Loughman says, strict COVID-19 protocols were already in place and being applied before the case tested positive.

Prime Minister Loughman said the people of Vanuatu can still move freely around in their communities, but he urged everyone to continue to maintain the proper washing of hands with soap and water and social distancing.

He says people must not panic but must pray for the nation’s safety.

So far the Vanuatu COVID-19 Advisory Committee has identified and quarantined 12 people who have been in close contact with the positive COVID-19 case.

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