Opposition Leader MP Ralph Regenvanu

Leader of Opposition and Port Vila MP, Ralph Regenvanu, has spoken out on “concerns raised by some officials” that are dealing with COVID-19, over the issue of the number of repatriates allowed at any one particular time.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Mr Regenvanu said some officials are concerned about the number of repatriates returning home that is exceeding the approved 650 figure.

Opposition Leader, Regenvanu, also said the officials that are concerned say if the quarantine protocols are breached, this will leave a gap for possible risk for the COVID-19 to enter the country.

He reminds the government of the importance to ensure quarantine protocols are properly managed in order to contain COVID-19 from entering the country.

Allowing large numbers of repatriates beyond control measures could lead to breaching of the quarantine protocols, hence the risk of COVID-19 entering the country, Opposition Leader voiced.

MP Regenvanu said officials within the government, in the NGOs and in the private sector who are involved in the handling and controlling of the COVID-19, called on the Opposition to take this to the government. The Opposition press conference was to present the concerns through the local media.

Mr Regenvanu alleged the maximum figure of 650 repatriates that should be allowed at anyone particular time is increasing to 741 by September which is already a breach of protocols and strict measures.

He said this would mean 91 more than the required number of repatriates at any one particular time. He urged that the approved figure of 650 at any particular time must be maintained but not increased.

“By Sunday this week, there will be 741 repatriates in 7 different hotels in Port Vila and this is higher than the agreed 650 at anyone particular time.

“This is 91 more than the required figure,” the Opposition Leader alleged.

“He also stated that there should be not more than two people sharing a room and socializing such as taking kava should not be allowed.

“The second phase is putting on too much pressure on our officials and those dealing with the COVID-19 that could lead to the breaching of quarantine protocols and which could lead to high risk of COVID-19 entering Vanuatu, if we are not careful.

“It is the issue of quarantine protocols and the breach of quarantine if we do not maintain the capacity that can be handled at one particular time and allowed for,” the Opposition Leader expressed.

He said following the first phase of repatriation, the review was made and recommendations presented to the government on how to proceed with the second phase.

Then he further alleged that the second phase did not commence as planned and there was a delay which has resulted in the pressure now to allow more repatriates than originally planned.

“There appears to be lack of communications between everyone involved in the COVID-19 repatriation processes and I put the blame on the NDMO COVID 19 Task Force and the Ministry of Foreign,” Opposition Leader Regenvanu said.

The Opposition Leader continued that the country needs direction from high government level to the officials below that are handling COVID-19 to strictly follow the quarantine protocols and the capacity for the repatriates returning home to ensure manageable Quarantine protocols hence less chance for the COVID-19 to enter Vanuatu.

In response, the Spokesperson for the COVID-19 National Committee, Dr. Len Tarivonda, said a decision has been reached yesterday to defer flights from Fiji and Brisbane over this weekend to next week.

He said this will allow for the quarantine protocols to be strictly adhered to.

Dr. Tarivonda agreed that there have been pressures, particularly from the repatriates living overseas to return home, but that the COVID-19 quarantine protocols must be adhered to in order to contain the disease from entering Vanuatu.

“At this point of time, there is no COVID-19 in Vanuatu and despite pressures we will maintain our Quarantine protocols to ensure COVID-19 does not enter Vanuatu,” Dr. Tarivonda assured.

“It is crucial for the country to maintain the quarantine protocols and we are doing our best to maintain these quarantine protocols and to keep COVID-19 out of Vanuatu,” says Dr. Len Tarivonda.

He also said the Government intends to bring home all citizens, still overseas before or by Christmas 2020, and confirms there are about 5,000 citizens and permanent residents that are abroad.

“It is the goal of the government to bring home the citizens and permanent residents still abroad but it is also our goal to ensure Vanuatu does not allow COVID-19 to enter the country.

“So we must maintain the quarantine protocols and strict measures to ensure at all costs that COVID-19 does not enter the country,” Dr. Tarivonda assured.

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