29 Apr 2020

Vanuatu man could face punishment for triggering Malekula lockdown

6:34 am on 29 April 2020

There could still be legal consequences for a Vanuatu man who boarded a ship at the centre of a lockdown, despite the vessel now being cleared of Covid-19.

The Amazin from the Philippines, anchored in Port Vila

The Amazin from the Philippines, anchored in Port Vila Photo: RNZ Pacific / Hilaire Bule

Malekula has been on lockdown since Sunday after the ship was found to have gone there to collect copra and had interacted with the community.

Authorities ordered the Filipino vessel to Port Vila where it was found to be coronavirus-free.

Under current Covid-19 measures, ships were allowed to come to Vanuatu, but human interaction was prohibited between crew members and locals.

The Director of Public Health, Len Tarivonda, said although the ship had been cleared, a Malekula man who boarded the boat had other issues to deal with.

"He also can be medically cleared but he needs to face the charges in terms of breaching the rules that are in place in terms of Covid-19 prevention and containment."

Dr Tarivonda said none of the crew had shown symptoms of Covid-19.

He said the vessel, the Eastern Amazon, had left the Philippines 26 days ago before travelling to Vanuatu via Solomon Islands.

He said this was equivalent to two incubation periods for Covid-19 so based on this information, questioning and observations made while boarding the ship in Port Vila, it was established the Eastern Amazon posed no threat to Vanuatu.

It was now up to the National Disaster Management Office, which had ordered the lockdown, to rule on punishment against whoever breached the conditions and whether to lift restrictions or not.

  • Vanuatu's Malekula in lockdown after interaction with Filipino boat
  • Malekula still on lockdown until visiting ship cleared of Covid-19
  • Filipino vessel found coronavirus-free by Vanuatu officials