The Vanuatu government announced on Wednesday, July 15, that the state of emergency which was introduced due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Harold in April will be extended until December 31. Despite the state of emergency most bars, restaurants, and supermarkets in the country are operating normally and no restrictions are in place for social gatherings.
Cyclone Harold, a category five tropical storm, struck multiple islands in the country on April 6, causing flooding and serious infrastructural damage to buildings. At least two people in Vanuatu were reportedly killed by the storm, while approximately 18,000 people were housed in 272 evacuation centers in Sanma, Penama, and Malampa provinces following the cyclone.
Vanuatu's borders remain closed except for permanent residents, Vanuatu citizens, and 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 July 15, 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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