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In its meeting on Tuesday this week, the Council of Ministers (COM) has agreed for the Vanuatu government to declare a State of Emergency (SOE) due to coronavirus.
Caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ralph Regenvanu said he was informed that an amendment to the order has delayed the SOE declaration.
The declaration is expected to be delivered by the Head of State, Obed Moses Tallis, today (Thursday), but that remains to be seen.
Though Vanuatu has no confirmed cases of the deadly virus, a SOE declaration will allow the government to mobilise resources and access funds to respond effectively to the public health crisis.
The declaration will give the government, through the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) more flexibility to respond to the threat.
The overall coordination of the coronavirus pandemic was handed over to NDMO last Friday. In its latest situation report issued Wednesday, NDMO conveyed that social gatherings and social events like weddings, kava bars, bars and night clubs are advised to be postponed until further notice.
NDMO said it is working with the departments of education, labour, immigration, foreign affairs and health and consulate in other countries like Fiji, New Zealand and Australia to repatriate citizens.
Currently, over 60 citizens are placed in quarantine at Holiday Inn Resort along with 35 VMF personnel who have been in Aneityum to facilitate in the election.
All international flights and ports of entry are closed. Only general cargo boats, oil, gas and fuel tankers are exempted.
All ports of entry are temporarily closed for Aneityum only.
Provincial Disaster Offices have been activated to support the health cluster in communicating COVID-19 awareness at the provincial level.
The public is advised to practice good hygiene and social distancing as authorities continue to monitor the situation.
Meanwhile, spokesperson of the Health Cluster, Russel Tamata, confirmed that surveillance is being conducted on two ships, MV Touaraken and Vanuatu Ferry after returning from TAFEA Province. Concerns have been raised by the public on whether MV Touaraken needs to be quarantined after returning from the island of Aneityum.
Aneityum is placed under quarantine as a precautionary measure after a cruise ship, Voyager of the Sea, went to the island with a passenger that later tested positive to coronavirus.
According to the Senior Legal Officer of the Office of the Maritime Regulator (OMR), Lloyd Fikiasi, the domestic vessel came back to Port Vila last Saturday, with six passengers.
After leaving Aneityum, MV Touaraken went to Tanna before continuing its route to Port Vila. The other ship, Vanuatu Ferry also sailed to Tanna.
Fikiasi said: “NDMO and Health Cluster need to come up with a plan for us to work together in tracking the passengers, as the ship also went to Tanna. “OMR do not have the power to quarantine a vessel. At the moment, it’s a health issue and we need instructions from NDMO”, he said. Meanwhile, all vessels are not allowed to sail to the whole of TAFEA Province following instruction from the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO). In a circular sent to all vessels, OMR stated that the instruction include all vessels returning from TAFEA and intends to travel to other provinces.
Last week, samples were taken from five people from Aneityum for testing and authorities are still waiting for the result. All ships will resume normal services to TAFEA Province when the lockdown is cleared by NDMO.
SOURCE: VANUATU DAILY POST/PACNEWS
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