Vanuatu's main island halts outward travel after deceased COVID-positive fisherman washes up on beach

Vanuatu police on hand at the discovery of a dead body on the shores of Efate, April 11, 2021.
Vanuatu police on hand at the discovery of a dead body on the shores of Efate, April 11, 2021. Photo credit: Supplied via RNZ

All outbound travel out of Vanuatu's main island, Efate, has been halted for three days following confirmation of a COVID-19 case.

The positive case is a recently deceased Filipino fisherman, whose dead body washed up on a beach near the capital Port Vila a week ago. The body was then taken to the local mortuary.

Following the discovery of the body last week, a UK-flagged tanker was detained by Vanuatu authorities amid investigations over the death.

Vanuatu's Prime Minister Bob Loughman announced the confirmation of the positive case by health authorities at Port Vila Central Hospital.

He said the government was issuing the order to ban outbound travel from Efate for three days while contact tracing efforts were conducted.

Loughman has appealed to the public to voluntarily test for the virus at Vila Central.

According to the Director-General of Health, Russell Tamata, the hospital has sufficient kits for voluntary testing.

As contact tracing began on Monday, Tamata confirmed 16 people have been put in quarantine at the Ramada Hotel. The majority are police officers who attended the scene when the body was discovered at Pango Beach on Sunday, April 11.

Tamata said the risk of community transmission was minor.

Loughman said business would operate as usual, but appealed to the people to abide by safety protocols such as social distancing.

The dead body is still at the mortuary at Vila Central.

Vanuatu has reported only three previous cases of COVID-19, all of which were detected at the border.