On Friday, May 8, Vanuatu's government extended an ongoing state of emergency for an additional 30 days due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Harold. The state of emergency was originally imposed on Thursday, March 26, and due to expire on Monday, May 11. The National Disaster Management Office has stated that all foreign assistance will be strictly controlled amid the COVID-19 outbreak in continuing efforts to curb the spread of the disease. A curfew is in effect between 21:00 and 04:00 (local time), throughout the duration of the state of emergency. Individuals will be required to remain in their homes, though exemptions are made for "emergency purposes, health reasons, or to perform a function related to an essential service." Those who fail to comply with the restriction will be subject to arrest by the police without a warrant and will be remanded for a 24-hour period.
Cyclone Harold, a category five tropical storm (highest category), struck multiple islands in the country on Monday, April 6, causing floods and serious infrastructural damage to buildings. At least two people in Vanuatu were reportedly killed by the storm. Approximately 18,000 people were housed in 272 evacuation centres in Sanma, Penama, and Malampa provinces following Cyclone Harold.
Vanuatu's borders remain closed to all except for permanent residents, Vanuatu citizens and for members of diplomatic bodies and international organizations, who will be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. All international flights are also suspended.
As of May 10, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly, and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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