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Vanuatu Customs authorises powers to health officers due to coronavirus threat
6:57 pm GMT+12, 06/02/2020, Vanuatu

As Vanuatu steps up control measures against the spread of the deadly coronavirus, the Department of Customs and Inland Revenue (DCIR) through Director Harold Tarosa, has delegated his powers to health officials.
 
Seven staff of the Ministry of Health have been authorised to perform any functions that may be performed or exercised by a customs officer for a period of three months, amidst the coronavirus threat.
 
The officers are: Vanua Sikon, Marie France Maleb, Obed Manwo, Nelly Ham, Dr Terence Henry, Dr Vincent Atua, D. Roderick Mera and Dr. Andy Ilo.
 
The appointment was made Director Tarosa, pursuant to Section 5 of the Customs Act No. 7 of 2013.
 
The instrument of appointment has been gazetted and became effective Thursday..
 
“In addition to the powers conferred upon the health officers, I as the Director will also grant full access of the Customs’ computer system to the health officers so they will be able to access the passenger module,” Director Tarosa said.
 
“This means the health officers will be able to access all information of passengers that are used to clear passports at our borders.
 
“They will use the information to screen all visitors entering the country and going out as well as monitor everyone coming in and leaving the country.”
 
Vanuatu has stepped up precautionary measures from the coronavirus threat, including strengthening its borders.
 
“Since Monday 27 January, we have put together control over pre-arrivals for both planes and ships, we also include controls for actual arrivals and post-arrivals,” the DCIR Director said.
 
“By this we mean that whenever we have visitors into our country, we have surveillance over them for 14 days.”
 
The authorities went to the extent to step up control on pre-departures.
 
“All vessels and aircrafts that are to depart from foreign ports, bound for Vanuatu, we want to ensure we have clearance from them prior to departing for our country.”
 
Tarosa emphasised on the significance of delegating the powers of the Customs Director to Health officers in this time as World Health Organisation declares the coronavirus a global health emergency.
 
The Health officers will be working in collaboration with Customs and Immigration Officers to inspect aircrafts and vessels.
 
Director Tarosa acknowledged Customs officers for their commitment as they work around the clock towards the fight against the deadly virus from spreading into the country.
 
This indicates a strong coordination between the officials from the two government ministries.
 
Acting Director of Health, Donald Pelam acknowledged Customs for recognizing this and relaying their powers to the health staff.
 
He affirmed the partnership to safeguard Vanuatu borders, saying the wellbeing of the citizens of this country rests on the decisions of the authorities.
 
Meanwhile, caretaker Prime Minister Charlot Salwai will address the people of Vanuatu today.
 
This has been confirmed by the Coronavirus Task Force Communications Officer, Russell Tamata, from the Ministry of Health (MoH). He said at present there are no suspected cases of coronavirus.
 
“At present, there are no suspected or confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in Vanuatu, nor in any other Pacific island country. Should a case be detected, the Ministry of Health Emergency Medical Team are on standby with dedicated quarantine facilities in Port Vila and Luganville, and a thorough response plan is ready should it be required.

“All cross-border government agencies and state-owned enterprises operating within Vanuatu’s international port of entries (seaports and airports) have been advised about the current World Health Organisation declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern for 2019-nCoV on 31 January 2020,” he said.
 
In the meantime, the Ministry of Health and the National Novel Coronavirus Taskforce has further revised the current surveillance programme for 2019-nCoV, Thursday.
 
The Taskforce has adopted the WHO’s revised definitions for suspected, probable and confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV as the basis for the Vanuatu Government’s response to this disease. These definitions can be found on WHO’s website.
 
In line with WHO revised case definitions of 2019-nCoV, Vanuatu’s enhanced surveillance response measures have been updated as follows:
 
Pre-Departure Screening Measures (craft entering Vanuatu)
 
• All travellers of any nationality wishing to enter Vanuatu (including Ni-Vanuatu citizens) MAY NOT enter Vanuatu if they have transited through, travelled to or resided in China in the previous 14 days. Travellers wishing to enter Vanuatu who have transited through, travelled to or resided in China in the previous 14 days must self-quarantine outside of Vanuatu for an additional 14 days from the date of their last departure from China, before they may enter Vanuatu.
 
• Additionally, after the 14-day self-quarantine period has lapsed, travellers of any nationality wishing to enter Vanuatu who have transited through, travelled to or resided in China since 31 December 2019 MUST also present a Medical Certificate obtained from a registered medical practitioner that certifies that they are free from any acute respiratory illness. Travellers of any nationality wishing to enter Vanuatu who have transited through, travelled to or resided in China since 31 December 2019 who fail to present a valid Medical Certificate will be prevented from boarding any craft travelling to Vanuatu.
 
• Medical certification is NOT required for travellers of any nationality who have NOT transited through, travelled to or resided in China since 31 December 2019.
 
2. Pre-Arrival Surveillance Measures (craft entering Vanuatu)
 
2.1. Airlines
 

• All flight crew on board all foreign going aircraft coming into Vanuatu are advised to report any symptoms or signs of flu, running nose, fever, headache, chest pain, or difficulty in breathing to ground staff on arrival at the airport terminal, when detected during flights.
 
• All air travellers of any nationality on flights inbound to Vanuatu MUST complete an Incoming Passenger Health Declaration form detailing their travel since 31 December 2019, including their current health status, phone number, email address and physical address while visiting or residing in Vanuatu. It is an offence under the Public Health Act to not compete this Declaration Form. Air travellers who do not present a completed Incoming Passenger Health Declaration form WILL NOT be permitted to enter Vanuatu and will be returned to their port of origin on the next available flight, at their own expense.
 
2.2. Shipping
 
• The Master and Captain of all foreign going vessels coming into Vanuatu MUST provide the following documentation to the Health Surveillance Team within 24 hours prior to arrival:
 
a) Voyage Memo (outlining all ports visited during the past 14 days)
 
b) Maritime Health Declaration (certifying health condition of crew and captain on board)
 
c) Vaccination List (outlining any case of outbreak on board).
 
• The Health Surveillance Team will provide clearance to all incoming vessels, prior to berthing alongside the seaport.
 
• Non-passengers are NOT permitted to board any foreign-going vessel that is berthed in a Vanuatu port until further notice (Vanuatu Government Customs and Immigration staff on official business and staff of local shipping agents excepted).
 
3. Actual Arrival Measures
 
3.1. Airports
 
• Health Officials are stationed at the airside (both at Port Vila International Airport and Santo International Airport to screen all incoming passengers and crew for suspected symptoms of acute respiratory illness.
 
• Any passenger with suspected symptoms of acute respiratory illness will be immediately isolated for further medical assessment.
 
• All passengers cleared for entry will be monitored for the duration of their stay, or for the 14-day 2019-nCoV incubation period if their stay exceeds 14 days.
 
3.2. Seaports
 
• Health Officials are stationed at all international seaports during arrival of vessels (Port Vila and Luganville) to screen all incoming passengers and crew for suspected symptoms of acute respiratory illness.
 
• Any passenger with suspected symptoms of acute respiratory illness will be immediately isolated for further medical assessment.
 
• All passengers cleared for entry will be monitored for the duration of their stay, or for the 14-day 2019-nCoV incubation period if their stay exceeds 14 days.
 
• 1As of today the Director of Customs have devolve extra authority under his power to eight Public heath staffs to join the boarder control staffs to enter inbound vessels and aircrafts for inspections.
 
4. Post Arrival Measures (Private Dwellings, Hotels and Resorts)
 
• All arriving passenger records are kept and monitored under the Ministry of Health database monitoring system.
 
• Continuous contact tracing of each traveller will be undertaken by the Ministry of Health Surveillance Unit until such time as the traveller has passed through the 14-day 2019-nCoV incubation period without displaying suspected symptoms of 2019-nCoV, or the traveller departs Vanuatu.
 
Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) – key facts for the public
 
Should a suspected case of 2019-nCoV be detected, the Vanuatu MoH Emergency Medical Team are on standby with dedicated quarantine facilities in Port Vila and Luganville, and a thorough response plan is ready should it be required.
 
The MoH Taskforce is continuing to closely monitor the emerging situation around the outbreak of 2019-nCoV in close collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other partners. This is a fast-evolving situation and the MoH Taskforce will continue to issue further advisories with new information as necessary.
 
The MoH recommends that all residents and citizens of Vanuatu avoid non-essential travel to China until further notice.
 
There is no specific treatment for people who are sick with 2019-nCoV. Treatment includes isolation as a precaution, and supportive medical care for those who experience symptoms.


SOURCE: VANUATU DAILY POST/PACNEWS


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