The Daily Post issue of Friday 13th March covers several news items that relates to the Coronavirus or Covid-19. Last week the Head of the World Health Organization declared it is upgraded from an epidemic to a pandemic outbreak. This means it is becoming a global threat to people all over the world. Even if Vanuatu does not have a case on record, I believe we need to be just as concern, as if we already have it.

The Vanuatu Government has set up a Task Force and I make a claim here that it is downplaying the seriousness of this pandemic disease. The public of Vanuatu should be reliably informed by the Task Force on a more regular basis. The reporting in this paper on Friday left much unexplained. For example, the discussion with the Head of State is not covered at all. As an individual at risk here, I want to know how that discussion be of concern to me and my safety.

I am requesting the Task Force to clarify, by way of information to the public, the following points:

1. On what basis are you saying that there is still no case here in Vanuatu? Can we have confidence in the surveillance methodology (ies) used?

2. Can members of the public get tested here in Vanuatu?

3. I have seen on FB an authorization from the Chairperson of the Public Service Commission for the Task Force to take whatever action necessary to stop the virus from entering Vanuatu. I feel overwhelmed by the seriousness of the outbreak and I do not feel safe. What are some immediate actions which the Task Force is planning to immediately work on?

4. In terms of medical infrastructure, what is the level of guaranteeing preparedness now ready on the ground? Are we going to rely on the structures available in our main hospital here?

5. From reports covered in the media about self-quarantine or house-quarantine, what does a family do if they have to house-quarantine a family member?

6. What does the Task Force plan to do about the distribution of face masks to the public?

7. Will there be repercussions of the covid-19 on food supply, for example, in Port Vila?

8. Do public gatherings put the public at risk now? [eg. The Soweto Gospel Choir tour to Vanuatu in early April or queuing to vote on this general election this week].

I believe more emphasis be given to simple personal hygiene practices. I thank the Task Force for their effort we’ve seen but I personally feel they need to interact more with the public, create awareness, and what appropriate actions to take instead of allowing misinformation run rampant, causing panic etc. amongst the public, especially in Port Vila.

A medical doctor in our hospital here commented on face-book that we have to stop the covid-19 from entering Vanuatu at all cost because our health system will collapse under it. This is not a good feedback and it worries me that we will not be able to cope to look after people suffering from covid-19.

I am a Christian and I mentioned this Task Force in my prayers. When one gets to the ‘end’ of their path with no answer in sight, we get to our knees and beg God for a solution.

I thank the members of the Task Force for your understanding, as well as your response. Also, the media, in particular the printed media needs to make sure they make a thorough coverage of the information so that the public is accurately informed.

Barry Ilaisa

Port Vila

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