The Pacific nation of Vanuatu is one of the few places where there is no coronavirus, but efforts to prevent its spread has been hampered due to cyclone category five. About it writes The Guardian.
Vanuatu is a country with a population of just less than 300,000 people, whose 80 Islands stretch across the ocean, 1800 km East of Australia remains one of the few countries in the world where there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus. There are a few countries in Africa that still do not have cases, but the majority of these countries, available from Covid, is in the Pacific ocean.
Countries such as Palau, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Samoa, was protected by its very remoteness, but remoteness, low incomes and weak health-care infrastructure would make them incredibly vulnerable if the virus reached them.
But even here, in this remote archipelago that feels as far away from the prohibitions Wuhan and horrific scenes in Italy and new York, the shadow of the coronavirus hanging over the entire country.
Two children Keitimai salmon were quarantined in a hotel after they returned from Sydney, where one attends school and the other studying at University.
“For my children’s return home was a relief, even if it meant to stay here in quarantine for two weeks. They did well, ‘ said the mother. — They were just happy to be home in Vanuatu”.
Salmon is Manager and client Manager Au Bon Marche, the largest supermarket chain in the country. She spent the last few weeks, assuring citizens of Vanuatu that there is enough food to feed the population, even when the borders are closed.
Au Bon Marche is one of the few companies that will survive the consequences of the reaction to the coronavirus.
For those working in the field of hospitality and tourism, which accounts for over 40% of GDP of Vanuatu, many of them are wondering how they will recover without permanent tourists.
Cruise ships stopped, and the national carrier Air Vanuatu has suspended all flights into and out of the country for an indefinite period. Many restaurants and hotels have closed voluntarily, while others are trying to operate within government restrictions, closing at 19:30 to curfew that prohibits anyone to be outside their homes from 21:00 to 4:00.
Along the main street of Port Vila, was opened the station for washing hands near the shops, banks and restaurants, most of which consists of large plastic containers and a portable crane. In accordance with the emergency regulations, all enterprises had at their own expense to install the tools for hand washing to promote hygiene.
This includes Kava bars, also known as nakamal who are faced with radical changes in their practice due to hygienic reasons. In Kava bars, serving traditional psychoactive beverage, people share the same bowl of Kava, submerged in the murky brown liquid, and drink all night.
After Covid-19 all Kava bars now only offer takeaway, and Nakamal estate Budinger on the outskirts of Port Vila, Kelsey Java wears disposable gloves to fill a plastic bottle filled with a drink for sale to customers.
“We usually stay open until midnight. But now we open at 16:30 and must be closed at 19:30, and we can only work on the takeaway, says Java. Some of my clients wanted a bar was open and wanted to drink Kava here, but I should explain that this is impossible. The police checks that we follow the rules, and our clients respect that.”
Other businesses had all closed. Christophe Thumper, a local businessman who is exporting sandalwood to China, was forced to close when the ports were closed, and he was concerned about rising unemployment. But I agree that the borders should be closed.
“If the virus comes here, I think that it will affect someone in my family. It would be very sad,” says Thumper.
Kalfou Mole, former member of Parliament, was able to make a last-minute flight from his hometown of Little Islands in Port Vila before all the operations for moving between the Islands was suspended.
“As a father and citizen of this country, I’m very excited. We have no means to combat the virus, says the Moth. — We don’t even have water to wash hands. Tell me, where can we get water in the East a Little? Or in the White Sands on Thann?”
Russell Tamata, a leading representative of a governmental Advisory group in the struggle Covid-19, protects the aggressive actions taken by the government.
“We know what spreads the virus, and when we look at our culture and how we live it is in favor of the virus. If the virus comes here, it will be a disaster. At the moment we have to be strict with our borders — we fear that, if he walks in Vanuatu, it will spread very quickly, and we simply do not have the resources and capabilities to manage it. The slightest mistake very much affect us,” says Tamata.
The Chinese government has pledged by the end of April to supply equipment and materials for Vanuatu to build an intensive care unit (ICU) in Port Vila, including to introduce much-needed mechanical ventilation devices.
Currently, the main hospital of the country, Vila Central hospital, makes tuberculosis unit in isolation, but in the hospital still has only 20 beds.
“If the patient is experiencing complications, we only have two of the ventilator throughout the country,” says Tamata.
“We have about 60 doctors, most of them recently graduated, recently sent us the third batch of nurses from the Solomon Islands to work in six provinces because of a shortage of human resources,” says Tamata.
Due to the lack of local nurses Vanuatu hires them from the Solomon Islands from mid-2019.
Tamata said that one of the biggest challenges is managing misinformation. When on March 26 in Vanuatu was declared a two-week emergency, one of the orders included a ban on all media outlets to publish articles about Covid-19, if they have not received permission from the National Directorate for disaster management (NDMO).
“There’s a lot of words that cannot be translated into Bislama, and they can easily be misconstrued,” says Tamata.
But while the country is preparing for the arrival Covid-19, the vulnerability of Vanuatu was highlighted this week as hurricane Harold hit the country. Monday, April 6, the morning of the storm category 5, struck the Northern Islands of Vanuatu.
The overall scale of the devastation is not yet clear, but the picture is from the Islands of espírito Santo and shows Little of the village, destroyed by a storm to the ruins.
Hard measures taken to respond to Covid-19, was suddenly canceled by the disaster. Rules that were forbidden to gather more than five people at a time, had to be eased, as people gathered in large groups to take refuge in the centers of mass evacuation.
Vanuatu used to natural disasters — it is considered the most vulnerable country in the world to natural disasters — and only last week NDMO fought the flood and the fall of volcanic ash. But there are fears that a double emergency, associated Harold and coronavirus, may be too serious for the vulnerable island nation.
Other leaders of the Pacific region, including the Prime Minister of Fiji, which is currently 16 registered cases of coronavirus, and where in the next few days pass by Harold storm, warned that the Pacific will require international assistance to rebuild after the storm.
“Harold could not have come at a worse time. Flights are prohibited, foreign workers assistance withdrawn and medical supplies are limited. The world must be prepared to respond to this disaster,” — he wrote.
But Tamata more optimistic about the chances of Vanuatu to confront an outbreak of the coronavirus, despite the other problems facing the country.
“We see Covid-19 as a threat, but it is also a blessing, says Tamata. — Basic methods of hygiene, we are trying to promote, are the old stories — that’s what we told people for years, and now people understand the importance of this. We realized the gaps in our laws, especially between the acts on public health and immigration, and we are ready to make tough decisions. Although Covid-19 would still pose a huge threat to Vanuatu, we are ready”
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