Border reopening this month unlikely: PRO
By Anita Roberts.
Vanuatu is unlikely to reopen its border this month as the Government had planned.
Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Fred Vurobaravu, said the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination rate is still slow and there needs to be adequate health facilities in place before the border reopens.
He said it is unlikely the border will reopen this month but maybe later this year.
The government’s plan was to reopen border to international visitors by the end of this month, subject to a high nationwide vaccination coverage.
The target was to have 90% of the adult population vaccinated with at least one dose of vaccine by the end of last year and 70% fully vaccinated by the end of March 20, 2022.
The head of the government, Prime Minister Bob Loughman, has made it clear that the border will reopen when most of the population are vaccinated.
According to the Director General (DG) of the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Chairman of the Health Emergency Advisory Committee, Henry Vira, only 46% of the adult population have been fully vaccinated and 66% have received one dose so far.
It is still a long way to achieve the vaccination target that will enable border reopening, he said.
DG Vira said vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaxxers remains a barrier to vaccination target but, awareness is ongoing in each province to encourage those who have not get vaccinated to quickly do so.
Border closure and quarantine has kept Vanuatu safe from the impacts of COVID-19 for over two years.
Vanuatu anticipates the importation of the new variants and is preparing for the risk at different scenarios, including large-scale community transmission. Currently, the main national goals are, boosting vaccination coverage and preparing the health system.
The MOH is working to boost vaccination coverage rate.
Regarding clinical preparedness, DG Vira said works to upgrade the country’s main referral hospital, Vila Central Hospital (VCH), to improve its capacity to care and manage COVID-19 patients, is still at the planning stage.
He said they are still discussing it and are yet to receive funds for the hospital upgrades.
The Minister of Health, Silas Bule, said no health paper was tabled in yesterday’s Council of Ministers (COM) meeting.
However, a paper on needed clinical equipment is expected to go before the Development Committee of Officials (DCO) soon before COM, he added.