Thursday, May 30, 2024

Vanuatu records first COVID case

The Pacific nation of Vanuatu has recorded its first case of coronavirus, after a citizen who was repatriated from the United States tested positive while in quarantine.

Vanuatu had been among the last handful of countries in the world to have avoided the virus.

Authorities have introduced a lockdown in the main island of Efate, banning travel to and from the island while contact tracing is underway.

Vanuatu has also extended its mandatory quarantine period for international travellers from 14 days to 28 days.

“I want to assure our people that the Government will apply strict protocols and COVID-19 measures to ensure the case doesn’t spread and our country remains safe,” Vanuatu Prime Minister Bob Loughman said.

“The situation is under the Government’s control.”

The patient has been transferred to an isolation ward at the Port Vila Central Hospital, and Mr Loughman said contact tracing had begun.

Health authorities say the 23-year-old man was asymptomatic when he returned home on November 4. 

His infection was confirmed on Tuesday, after routine testing.

Officials say they plan to keep everyone from the same flight in quarantine and to trace the man’s close contacts, but they don’t plan to impose any broader measures in the nation of 300,000 people.

Len Tarivonda, the director of Vanuatu Public Health, told the ABC there was a group of almost 200 people who may have had contact with the patient.

While the country was previously only testing citizens who had returned to Vanuatu from countries deemed to be a medium to high coronavirus risk, Dr Tarivonda said all repatriated citizens were now being tested.

“Last week the Ministry of Health decided we would test everybody in quarantine regardless of country of origin … we will see the number of tests rising quite rapidly,” he said.

This article first appeared on ABC News.

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