There are now over 50 million COVID-19 cases confirmed around the world, with over 33 million patients recovered.
In the Pacific there have been over 16,000 cases and 140 deaths as of the 9th of November. Two more Pacific Island Countries have recently had their first COVID-19 cases, which are the Marshall Islands and Wallis and Futuna. Vanuatu remains one of only a handful of countries in the world that remain COVID-free.
Since February 2020, 155 persons in Vanuatu have been tested for COVID-19 and all have been negative. Four were suspected cases and the samples came back negative, so they are no longer suspected. The remainder were sampled as a precautionary measure as they displayed some symptoms but did not fulfill the World Health Organization (WHO) case definition for COVID-19, or were tested to confirm no infection prior to release from quarantine or travel.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) continues to lead the country’s COVID preparedness and response at the national level. The updated COVID-19 Health Sector Preparedness and Response Plan is a working document that is adapted to the evolving situation locally, regionally, and globally. Its main objectives include the prevention and mitigation of infections, risk communication and early detection, and isolation and clinical management of cases, whilst also maintaining essential health services. Health messaging through its Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) team continues through its various platforms with updates made available on the MOH website: covid19.gov.vu.
Under the Plan, Vanuatu is currently considered to be in scenario 1 with no confirmed cases of COVID-19. Scenario 2a is when there is a case or cases in quarantine only (at the border), 2b is when there are clusters or sporadic cases, and scenario 3 is when there is community-wide transmission of COVID-19. These defined scenarios are intended to guide related preparedness and response activities across different sectors.
SHEFA tourism businesses started their Safe Business Operations (SBO) training this week at the Vanuatu Institute of Technology (VIT). It is compulsory for registered tourism businesses to gain accreditation against the SBO Guidelines, which the Ministry of Tourism has developed in collaboration with the MOH, to ensure there are COVID-safe practices in the workplace. It will become part of the Tourism Permit process. There are two ways that businesses can gain accreditation: through Self-Verification and Assessment. These two processes are explained in the chart below. Please note that the digital platform which will be hosted on the tourism.gov.vu website will be ready next week for self-verification and to download the SBO Guidelines and checklists.
It is important to use this time when there are no international tourists to get prepared for when border restrictions are relaxed. The department of Tourism will continue to work on all 5 pillars to ensure Vanuatu is prepared in terms of health and safety, product readiness and public awareness. In the meantime, all operators, businesses, and the community are always encouraged to listen and follow the advice of MOH and WHO.