Authorities in Vanuatu have announced that they detected the country's first case of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Tuesday, November 10. The case is an asymptomatic man who had flown into the country on Wednesday, November 4, from the US via New Zealand and Australia. The subject has been placed in isolation and contact tracing is currently underway in order to place those who had been in contact with the case in quarantine. The government has stated that no further measures were immediately necessary; however, they emphasized that the public should exercise social distancing and good hygiene practices.
The Vanuatu government announced on July 15 that the state of emergency which was introduced due to the 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.
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.
Further international spread of the virus is to be expected.
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). Since then, human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized.
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.