Repatriation underway, schools closed

An order was signed by caretaker Minister of Education, Jean Pierre Nirua instructing the temporary closure of all schools in SHEFA, SANMA and TAFEA Provinces. This photo shows an empty dormitory at Onesua as students began vacating the school premises yesterday. Photo: Principal Graham K

Vanuatu citizens and permanent residents abroad wanting to return home amidst the coronavirus pandemic have been advised to notify the embassies in their respective countries in order for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) to arrange their flights.

This means that the MoFA will liaise with the government of those countries as some have already closed their borders to other countries, including Vanuatu.

Media Focal Person of the National Coronavirus Task Force, Russel Tamata, said the decision include seasonal workers in New Zealand (NZ) and Australia and students studying in countries like Fiji.

The Daily Post understands that the High Commission in Fiji is planning to seek the repatriation of all Vanuatu students studying there, either sponsored by Van-Gov, NZ and Australian Governments or private sponsored.

Mr Tamata said the repatriation of citizens and residents is already underway.

“About 14 seasonal workers returned on Saturday morning and over 30 other citizens arrived later that night. All returning citizens and residents will have to spend two weeks in quarantine before returning home,” he said.

Currently, over 60 citizens and residents are being placed in quarantine at a hotel in Port Vila after returning from overseas.

The task force announced last Friday that the country will close its border by restricting international flights, as the coronavirus is spreading extremely fast. This means that flights from oversea will not be allowed.

Air Vanuatu issued a notice announcing that international services will cease, following a final flight on Wednesday this week to and from Auckland (NZ) to allow the remaining citizens and residents back to their home countries.

The airline will be working closely with NDMO for any further service requirements oversea.

NDMO will officially take over responsibilities from the task force starting today (Monday) onward.

Meanwhile, schools in SHEFA, SANMA and TAFEA will be closed starting this week until further notice, to prepare for the possibility of extended closure.

SHEFA’s Principal Education Officer (PEO), Jonathan Yona, said there will be no classes from Monday to Friday as teachers will be working on their plans for a possible long-term coronavirus-related shutdown.

Schools in other provinces will continue to operate.

Principal of Onesua Presbyterian College at north Efate, Graham Kalmar, said Onesua will be temporarily closed for eight weeks.

Parents and guardians of students boarding at Malapoa College including Onesua are instructed to pick up their children from school.

Secretary General (SG) of the SANMA Provincial Government Council (SPGC), Albert Ruddley, said they will be conducting awareness to schools and communities during the first week of closure.

“During this week, we (SPGC and the Department of Health) will be conducting training with government and NGO officers who will be going out to communities and schools to run awareness on coronavirus.”

Meanwhile, there is still no confirmed case in Vanuatu.

Confirmed cases and/or deaths have been reported in other countries of the Pacific region and there are suspected cases being tested.

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