Vanuatu records first COVID-19 case in man who returned from US

The Pacific nation was one of the few parts of the world that was still free of the coronavirus.

Vanuatu in the sights of Tropical Cyclone Pam
The Pacific island of Vanuatu has confirmed its first case of coronavirus [File]

Vanuatu has officially recorded its first case of COVID-19, health officials announced on Wednesday, ending the Pacific nation’s status as one of the few countries in the world to remain virus-free.

Len Tarivonda, the director of Vanuatu Public Health, said the 23-year-old man had recently returned from the United States and was confirmed to have the virus on Tuesday after being tested on the fifth day of his quarantine.

“A case detected in quarantine is considered a border case and not an outbreak,” the department said in a statement, adding that health protocols were in place to contain the virus.

It added that the asymptomatic man, had been isolated from other passengers during his flight to Vanuatu because he had been in a high-risk location. He had transited in Auckland, New Zealand.

The statement said the patient had adhered to all social-distancing rules on arrival and that contract-tracing of all the people who had been near to him was under way.

“I want to assure all citizens and the public that the situation is under control and the government through the COVID-19 task force is prepared and ready to address this case,” Prime Minister Bob Loughman said at a press conference, according to Radio New Zealand.

Vanuatu closed its borders in March as part its efforts to keep the pandemic at bay, only recently allowing in strictly controlled repatriation flights.

Many Pacific island nations were concerned their poor health infrastructure made them particularly vulnerable to the pandemic.

The remote island nations and territories of Kiribati, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu are all believed still to be free of the virus.

The Solomon Islands and Marshall Islands confirmed cases among returnees last month, although they have not reported community transmission.

More than 51.3 million people around the world have been confirmed to have the coronavirus, with the US the worst-affected country, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 1.3 million people have died.

Source: AFP, Al Jazeera