26 Mar 2020

Vanuatu declares State of Emergency over Covid-19

4:49 pm on 26 March 2020

Vanuatu's president has declared a State of Emergency in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Obed Moses Tallis made the declaration this morning in Port Vila.

Vanuatu president Tallis Obed Moses

Vanuatu President, Obed Moses Tallis Photo: Dan McGarry

Earlier in the week the Council of Ministers had agreed to the declaration saying it was necessary to allow the government to mobilise resources and access funds to properly prepare the country.

The caretaker prime minister asked people not to panic following the declaration.

In a national address Charlot Salwai said the declaration was necessary to allow government to mobilise resources and funding for their coronavirus response.

He said it was also to enforce restrictions by health authorities and the national disaster management office, which he says were currently being ignored by many.

"I want to encourage you the people of Vanuatu, do not panic. And I want to encourage you all to get the right information that comes for the health authority or from the NDMO.

"That will help us know what steps we should take to protect us from this virus Covid-19," Mr Salwai said.

He said there would be further restrictions on travel, clamping down on the spreading of false information and making sure people are social distancing, hand washing and other good health practices.

There are no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Vanuatu, but the island of Aneityum in the country's south was in lockdown after a tourist from a cruise ship which visited the island, tested positive for the coronavirus.

Blood samples from a number of locals on the island have been sent to New Caledonia for testing.

More details regarding the State of Emergency are expected in the the next day or so.

Solomons police caught up in Vanuatu Covid-19 scare

Officers on board the Solomon Islands patrol boat Auki have been caught up in Vanuatu's Aneityum Covid-19 scare.

During Vanuatu's election this month the crew of Auki assisted the Electoral Commission by transporting ballot boxes and personnel between southern islands in the country.

The Auki had just returned to the Vanuatu capital Port Vila on 21 March when news broke that a tourist on a cruise ship that had visited the same islands they had just been on had tested positive for Covid-19.

The Solomon Islands patrol was now anchored off Port Vila awaiting test results of about nine locals that had been sent to New Caledonia.

The Director of the Solomons Maritime Police, Chief Superintendent Fox Sau, said if any of the test results came back positive, the patrol boat and crew would have to be tested and quarantined in Vanuatu for 14 days.

"At this stage we cannot confirm when the RSIPV Auki will arrive back in Honiara."

No caption

Photo: RNZ/Koroi Hawkins