Prime Minister (PM) 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 yesterday 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 yesterday 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 May 23.