Port Vila, 12 November 2020: The Vanuatu Ministry of Health in support of the official statement of the Prime Minister confirms that on 10 November Vanuatu had their first confirmed case of COVID-19.
The National Disaster Management Office, the Ministry of Health and other key government partners are responding to the case and can assure the public that this is strictly a ‘border case’ which has been detected in quarantine.
Vanuatu’s first border case of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has been identified in a quarantine facility in Port Vila. The person arrived on 4th November from the United States having transited through Sydney and Auckland.
The person did not have any COVID-19 symptoms and was detected in quarantine during routine day 5 testing. They will remain in isolation where they will be closely monitored and kept separated from the public and other persons in quarantine, following all established protocols until health clearance is given for release.
Physical distancing and personal protection measures (including masks) were used correctly throughout the process of travel to Vanuatu, and during their arrival, transport to and registration at the quarantine facility.
As the required pre-travel registration process was followed, the person was identified as travelling from a higher-risk location and additional measures such as physical separation from those travelling from low risk locations were implemented.
Director Len Tarivonda notes that it is these pre-established processes which has enabled containment and a prompt and effective response. “With our own in-country testing for COVID-19 we were able to conduct timely tests, get immediate confirmation and respond according to established protocols” Director Tarivonda stated.
“The Ministry of Health is confident and assures the public that the person did – and continues to – follow all required quarantine and isolation measures” said Director Tarivonda. “We call on everyone to follow all measures imposed for safety and security purposes,” he added.
In accordance with the COVID-19 Health Sector Preparedness and Response Plan (version 5) Vanuatu is now in Scenario 2A. The Surveillance and Response Teams continue to monitor the situation very closely and follow strict protocols and operational procedures already established to respond to any COVID-19 event.
Contact tracing has started and any close contacts will be quarantined. As a precaution all people who were on the same flight as the confirmed case will be tested for COVID-19.
The identification of a case of COVID-19 in quarantine shows that the processes established by the Ministry of Health and other government sectors and partners has so far been effective in protecting Vanuatu’s borders and keeping everyone safe. Updated information will be provided regularly by authorities.
The Ministry of Health encourages everyone to not spread misinformation and to follow the advice of authorities.
This includes providing support and encouragement to those in quarantine and all frontline workers who are working to support the COVID-19 response. “These are challenging times that call for us as a nation to come together”, Director Tarivonda said. “It is not a time to be afraid. It is a time to get accurate information from the authorities, do the right thing and follow the advice provided”, he added.
Key Advice to the public:
At this time, members of the public are requested to remain calm and wait for updates from the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) and the Ministry of Health.
The case remains a border case of COVID-19 that is isolated, with no immediate threat of cases in the community (illness passed to those outside of quarantine).
Because of these measures, and after a thorough risk analysis, it is advised that no local or nationwide lockdown is required at this time i.e. schools will continue, shops and businesses will remain open and government operations will continue until further notice.
The Ministry of Health continues to recommend the public to continue prevention and hygiene measures including washing hands with soap and water, covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
In reference to section 9 of the Vanuatu Public Health Act it is an offence for any person to release information about any person suspected or confirmed to be suffering from COVID-19, unless it is a medical professional caring for the person. Ministry of Health will not share any personal information pertaining to suspect or confirmed cases of COVID-19.
More information about the situation will be provided regularly by government agencies via situation reports, radio, text message, press releases and press conferences.
For more information, please visit www.covid19.gov.vu or contact the National COVID-19 Information Hotline at 119.