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First repatriation phase a success: Vanuatu PM
05:24 am GMT+12, 24/06/2020, Vanuatu

Vanuatu Prime Minister Bob Loughman said the first phase of the government's repatriation was a success despite challenges and this should be considered as a stepping stone to improve procedures and protocols in the next phase.
PM Loughman announced in a press conference following the end of repatriation first phase Tuesday that Vanuatu is still COVID-19 free. 
So far, not a repatriate who has been or still in quarantine has shown symptoms of COVID-19, he said.
“It's an achievement and we all should be proud," he said.
“Firstly, we have to thank the Lord for protecting us. Thank you also to the government, partner agencies and collective efforts of everyone to keep the virus out of the country.
“Repatriating stranded citizens and residents is part of my duty as the head of the government towards citizens’ well-being and welfare.
“I want to express the government's appreciation to donor partners such as New Zealand (NZ), Australia and New Caledonia (NC) for their generous support in the first repatriation phase, including government agencies, community leaders and the business community.
“I thank the repatriates and their families for their understanding and cooperation in accepting the rules and conditions of the quarantine process. Their compliance helps to keep Vanuatu free from COVID-19."
PM Loughman called on members of the public to welcome and offer support to the repatriates once they are released into their communities.
He announced that repatriation flights under the first phase will now stop as of Tuesday and the long-term phase will commence on August.
There will be no repatriation flights next month, he said.
“This will allow authorities to manage the large number of repatriates in quarantine and time to review prevention and containment protocols,” PM Loughman said.
“We also want to give time to the front-line workers to reflect on lessons and experiences gained in the first phase and time to do proper planning for the next phase."
PM Loughman confirmed that over 1,500 citizens and residents have returned home in the first repatriation phase which commenced on 23 May.
Meanwhile, the Vanuatu government will spend around Vt50 million (US$428,000) to cover the quarantine cost of over 1,500 citizens and residents in the first repatriation phase, said Director General (DG) of the Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC), Esline Bule.
This figure covers accommodation and daily meals in resort and hotel quarantine, it does not include the cost of repatriation flights, she said.
DG Bule said the government has already covered the Vt13 million (US$11,000) quarantine cost of the initial repatriates who were kept at Holiday Inn.
Before moving repatriates into the quarantine facility, the government has to meet at least 20% of the cost, she said.
DG Bule revealed this when she was answering questions during a press conference that was held at the Prime Minister (PM’s) Office to provide update on the government’s repatriation following the end of the immediate phase Tuesday.
A total of 124 repatriated citizens were sent home yesterday after spending 14-days in quarantine at Iririki Resort and were declared free of COVID-19 by the Health authorities.
A few delays were made before the citizens were released, after enduring long hours of medical check-ups and health screenings done by the Ministry of Health (MoH).
Global Talent Partner for P&O Cruise Australia and the Managing Director of South Sea Services, Carissa Jacobe said the 126 Ni-Vanuatu crew workers arrived in Vanuatu on 08 Juneafter spending two and a half months on-board the Pacific Dawn, Pacific Explorer and Pacific Aria since 27 March in Manila Bay, Philippines.
“There have a few complications made in the repatriation process of the Philippian crew members which have caused more delays for other nationalities on-board the ships,” she added.
“The 124 repatriated citizens were then quarantined at Iririki Resort while the remaining 2 members were sent to Tropicana Resort.”
Director of Iririki Resort, Darren Pettiona said the repatriated were compliant, well-respected and followed protocols accordingly so as to avoid any implications during their 2-weeks stay.
“During their time in quarantine, they were so eager to go home and be reunited with their families,” he said
“Most importantly, they craved Melanesian food more than the hotel meals provided and this proves how much they miss home.
“Moreover, the Public Health were very informative and resourceful during the 14-day period and have well educated our staff on the procedures and steps needed to take towards monitoring the families in quarantine.”
Pettiona wished to thank the services provided by the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO), the MoH, Air Vanuatu Limited (AVL) and the Vanuatu Police Force for working together to ensure the repatriation process was a success and in turn, to minimize the risks of importing COVID-19 into the country.



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