Premature information creating confusion

The general public is in confusion due to what many say were premature statements by government officials.

On the 27th of October, the Government Public Relations Officer (PRO), Fred Vurobaravu, made a public statement on social media saying the government is ready to declare a lockdown if there is a possible community transmission.

With the two confirmed cases in quarantine at present, Mr. Vurobaravu states that with community tracing happening at present, if there is a confirmed community transmission then the Government is ready to seal off Port Vila, schools, work places, nakamals and such until there are no longer any positive cases in the community.

Only essential services are to be in operation if a lockdown is declared.

Following this statement, Prime Minister, Bob Loughman was to hold a press conference – now postponed twice — to announce an update on the two positive COVID-19 cases.

Subsequently, the First Political Advisor of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utilities (MIPU), Milroy Cainton, posted that it is likely the Fest’Napuan music festival would be put on hold as it could not proceed until the PM had made his announcement at the press conference.

The said press conference was rescheduled for yesterday, the 28th of October. However, the information had already been circulated among the public, causing confusion.

Many members of the public shared their disappointment.

Nancy Alexander, a stall owner at the Fest’Napuan said she had spent over VT47,000 to acquire her stall and meet the criteria to run the stall during the festival.

“Stall owners have not rested,” she said. “I had to make sandwiches early but no one came to the festival then because of what the government officials were saying on social media,” she says.

According to the Food and Safety Training that the stall owners who sell food are required to undergo at the cost of VT3000, all food can only be displayed for two hours and if not bought, they have to be disposed.

When asked to comment on this subject, PRO Fred Vurobaravu said responded, “There is nothing to panic about.

“People are spreading false information. There is no lockdown yet and the public should be responsible with precautionary measures. Until such time the PM announce that there has been a community transmission of COVID-19, there will be no lockdown.”

Attempts to reach the first PA of MIPU, Mr. Cainton have been unsuccessful as the PA was not available to make a statement on this subject at this time.

Meanwhile after the Fest’Nalenga program on Wednesday afternoon was cut short, yesterday afternoon, the Fest’Napuan issued a notice saying the Fest’Napuan program will proceed and the Thursday program had commenced at Saralana.

But by 4pm it was official – the Ministerial Order by the Deputy Prime Minister – confirmed Fest’Napuan 2021 is on hold, for now.

With the short notice, many people still turn up to check out the event at dusk, however there were no bands on stage. Only the stall vendors were trying to sell off the food and kava they had toiled hours preparing, something that could have been avoided had they been informed earlier.

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