A total of 1,528 repatriates are now safely home with loved ones and Vanuatu remains COVID-19 free.
A press release said the success was due to strict travel and quarantine conditions imposed by NDMO and the Ministry of Health under the NDMO’s ‘Instrument of Directions to Government Agencies relating to COVID-19 and Tropical Cyclone Harold (Amendment) Order No. 77 of 2020’ dated 23 May, under the Disaster Risk Management Act.
All 1,528 repatriates who arrived into the country between 27 May and 23 June spent 14 days in mandatory quarantine at 15 different government-designated hotels and were provided with daily health monitoring. By 08 July, all had been released into the community with a letter from the Ministry of Health certifying their good health.
“This is an unprecedented number of repatriates in such a very short time for any Pacific Island country to handle,” stated Len Tarivonda, Director of Public Health. “However, Vanuatu demonstrated that we were up to the task. All the sectors and partners rose to the challenge to ensure people were on home soil, were looked after, and were free from quarantine in time for the 40th independence celebrations!” he added.
Under the Public Health Act, quarantine is a public health precaution to physically separate healthy individuals from others to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. During the quarantine period, services and support provided included accommodation, meals, exercise, daily health checks, and psychosocial assessments and support. In addition, Ministry of Health worked with the Civil Status Office to ensure that those without national ID cards had their cards processed while in quarantine.
Len Tarivonda, Director of Public Health noted “We are happy that these individuals are safely home with their families after an unprecedented global situation with the COVID-19 pandemic.” He added, “We thank them and their families for patience and cooperation with repatriation directives and for following quarantine protocols to keep our country safe”.
During quarantine repatriates participated in surveys conducted by psychosocial support team across 15 quarantine facilities. Of the surveys carried out 98 per cent of people found quarantine to be easy or not too difficult. With regards to safety during quarantine, 98 per cent of people said they felt safe while 87 per cent knew who to contact for health issues. However, some concerns were expressed about acceptance by the community upon release.
The Ministry of Health has been working tirelessly to ensure ongoing public health information and teams reach communities, as often inaccurate information in the media births fear and stigma. Outreach teams have engaged with influential leaders with strong networks through the community including chiefs, churches, women’s organisations and youth to ensure a supportive environment is in place. In support of this, health provincial teams are on standby to support repatriates as they return to communities and work with community stakeholders to ease re-integration.
“Let us be united as a country to provide support to these individuals, their families and communities,” said Director Tarivonda encouraging families and friends, as well as the broader community to provide acceptance and appreciation to those released from quarantine for the sacrifice made to keep the country safe.
The Ministry of Health’s support to the NDMO and line Government Agencies to manage a smooth, safe repatriation and quarantine has been key to keeping Vanuatu safe. All agencies are now at the ready to welcome the next lot of repatriates home after the independence celebrations. Lessons learned in Phase 1 will help to inform a smoother and improved process for the next phase to bring back those persons patiently awaiting repatriation to Vanuatu.