In these ever changing and complex times, we understand that being informed and up to date is not easy. In an attempt to ensure we share as much information as possible, we will be providing more regular updates such as this one. While the current COVID-19 situation is still one of rapid changes we are attempting to publish weekly updates to keep our communities, businesses and stakeholders informed.

The Ministry of Health should be commended for their actions and measures to-date including the setting up of the Health Technical Advisory Group. The national COVID-19 response in Vanuatu is based on three defined transmission scenarios. Vanuatu is currently in scenario 1, where there are no confirmed COVID cases. Therefore, all current efforts are centered around prevention and preparedness. If we enter scenario 2 and or 3, Vanuatu will have to shift into a response mode and continues to strengthen preparations for this. Enhanced clinical health services at Vila Central Hospital, reinforced by active contact tracing, strengthened community engagement and risk communication, will ensure that the national COVID response for scenario 2 and 3 is efficient, effective, and swift.

The main Government priority now for tourism is to train businesses on how to apply the new health and safety procedures starting from September 2020, using the ‘Vanuatu Guidelines for Safe Businesses Operations (SBO) in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. These SBO guidelines were developed in close collaboration between the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Health. This policy guideline includes measures and actions based on the scenarios in the Ministry of Health ‘COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan’ to carry out safe business operations during a pandemic. This guideline will provide awareness and guidance and will communicate to every business the measures required to be identified as ‘Clean, Caring and Checked’. One or more safety officers from each business will be identified for training, to carry out risk assessment and compliance with health measures across all scenarios to allow a business to safely operate in a time of COVID.

Businesses will need to prepare, understand, respond and take responsibility under each transmission scenario and carry out the recommended Public Health actions. The criteria are drafted in the context of mitigating known risks as Vanuatu prepares for the easing of restrictions on international borders and for businesses to be ready with appropriate measures to action for their staff and customers safety. This will provide confidence for workers, customers, and the government that appropriate safe measures are being taken in the workplace and that there is integrity in these measures.

The Department of Tourism is currently identifying training providers to deliver the SBO training. Independent Auditors will also be sourced to undertake a program of spot checks and auditing to ensure that businesses remain compliant with the SBO Guidelines. Credibility and compliance of business operations in adhering to recognised COVID-19 measures and standards is crucial. These measures are benchmarked to national, regional and international standards.

This training needs to be completed for businesses to receive the ‘Clean, Caring and Checked — CCC’ certification to show that they have achieved this level of safe operations. The guidelines and self-verification checklist, of which one of the questions will ask if you have attended the training, will be on the Department of Tourism’s website, and be linked with the covid19.gov.vu website. The Government will ensure there is compliance with the new health and safety procedures and provide support to tourism businesses to assist to ensure that they are business ready.

The economic and social health of our nation relies on many factors such as business, trade, education, health, and tourism. Providing a balance between both economic viability and appropriate health measures sustains the safety and livelihood of our people.

Teams are working tirelessly to implement the immediate response and recovery plan and to communicate to everyone what is being done. This will include community awareness programs and more details on many important changes that will affect everyone. There is a team from the Department of Tourism travelling to Tafea next week. They will be having meetings and workshops with the area secretaries, community leaders and operators to assist with disseminating messages and updates.

The good co-operations of citizens is core to a safe approach to this COVID-19 situation. We appreciate your interest and encourage you to keep informed using the national Health Covid website for trusted advice.

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