COVID-19 National Committee spokesperson, Dr. Len Tarivonda, has confirmed that Vanuatu is medically equipped to carry out COVID-19 tests in the country, and no longer has to send tests to Noumea, New Caledonia. He said Vanuatu has been equipped and ready for this since May this year.

In confirming this, Dr. Tarivonda also revealed that starting this week the Ministry of Health will start for the first time to conduct COVID-19 Tests for Repatriates coming home from New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and New Caledonia. He added that Repatriates from high risk COVID-19 areas who refuse the test, will remain for seven extra days or a total of 21 days in quarantine. It is yet to be seen if one or some repatriates will refuse the COVID-19 test, especially those coming from the high-risk regions.

“We cannot allow room for COVID-19 to enter Vanuatu and for this reason any repatriates who refuses to take COVID-19 tests, especially those coming from high risks areas, will be made to remain in quarantine for seven extra days or a total of 21 days in quarantine facilities,” Dr. Tarivonda stressed.

“The safety and the life of every people in Vanuatu is our greatest concern so we are making sure that all protocols and strict measures are complied with."

At the same time, Dr. Tarivonda also reveals that pooled tests will apply for the large number of repatriates coming home from New Zealand and Australia, Fiji or New Caledonia. Tests will be taken from the back of the mouth or back of the nose of an individual, but not blood, as some people thought.

Pooled testing, or batch testing means combining respiratory samples from several people and conducting one laboratory test on the combined pool of samples to detect COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Pooling allows laboratories to test more samples with fewer testing materials. It could be useful in scenarios like returning group of workers from abroad. If pooled test is negative, then all samples can be presumed negative with the single test. If the pooled test is positive, each of the samples in the pool will need to be tested individually to determine which samples are positive. Dr. Tarivonda said the pooled test will only be applied to people returning home from areas reported with high risks with COVID-19.

“Again, we are implementing and enforcing all COVID-19 protocols and strict measures to ensure COVID-19 does not enter Vanuatu. It is our highest priority for the safety of the population of Vanuatu at large,” Dr. Tarivonda said.

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