Assistant Law Lecturer, Merilyn Temakon, said the Government should ensure Vanuatu’s economy is well-prepared and defensible against the COVID-19 pandemic before repatriations can be arranged.
Mrs Temakon who teaches Legislation and Intellectual Property Law at the Emalus University of the South Pacific has shared her disappointment on the Government’s decision to repatriate Ni-Vanuatu citizens from high-risk infected countries (level 3), while the economy is still hanging by a thread, with businesses on the brink of shutting down and not enough trainings given to team of recruits such as securities and nurses that will be working on the frontline.
“The Government must weigh its priorities, the lives of over 300,000 people are at risk because of the illogical choice of repatriating one citizen,” she said
“The cost of one repatriate doesn’t compare to the overall cost of an economic lockdown.”
Mrs Temakon said before repatriations are made, the Government must first ensure the country’s health facilities are secure, quarantine and isolation sectors safe and the economy stable and prepared to defend and maintain a possible virus outbreak in the country, if ever that happens.
“The Taskforce is hiding behind an excuse of responding to a citizen’s rights by repatriating them back into the country, but on the other hand, it does put the other entire population at risk,” she said.
“With the additional fund of Vt208 million given to the National Taskforce to tackle this virus, they must be transparent on how the funds will be utilised and make sure the virus is contained at all cost.
“Early this year when COVID-19 was announced as a pandemic, the school had handed out masks and gloves, built and installed new handwashing stations around the campus and for a while, the school was temporarily closed because of the declared SOE.
“Even though there haven’t been any confirmed cases of COVID-19, a lot of money was spent.
“USP has over 3,000 students, with a majority living in the islands, now that there is a lockdown with travel restrictions, these students will have no choice but to live with their guardians, but the real question is: who is responsible to pay for their cost of living? Their parents from the island? Or the Government?
“In this time of a pandemic, the Government and the National Taskforce must always be transparent, mindful and handle this pandemic seriously.
“This confirmed case has not only created panic but has created a ripple effect of anxiety and discomfort in the entire population.
“People are unsettled with this new fear and as far as the water keeps rising, the panic will continue to spread if the matter is not taken seriously into consideration.
“The Government must not overlook its responsibility and duty for the nation.”