This week’s update from the Department of Tourism continues to focus on the preparedness of businesses, updates on health and safety and community awareness approach.The safety and livelihood of our people depends on a balance between the economy and health. Movement of people is for business, trade, medical, education and tourism. All of which we rely on for the economic and social welfare of our nation.

The increasing number of cases across the Pacific including French Polynesia, PNG, New Zealand and Australia has Vanuatu reviewing and evaluating their repatriation policies. Vanuatu can only safely quarantine 450 people at any one time.

Industry health guidelines and criteria are being formed which will be in place well before other flights come in. This will enable travel for individuals from countries that meet a set of strict criteria in terms of health and contact tracing. The Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Health are working closely together to ensure that businesses and their staff are prepared as the safety and well-being of our citizens is paramount.

As we explained previously, the national COVID-19 response in Vanuatu is based on three defined transmission scenarios. Vanuatu is currently in scenario 1, where there are no confirmed COVID cases. Therefore, all current efforts are centered around prevention and preparedness. If we enter scenario 2 and or 3, Vanuatu will have to shift into a response mode and continues to strengthen preparations for this. Enhanced clinical health services at Vila Central Hospital, reinforced by active contact tracing, strengthened community engagement and risk communication, will ensure that the national COVID response for scenario 2 and 3 is efficient, effective,

and swift.

The main Government priority now for tourism is to train businesses on how to apply the new health and safety procedures starting from September 2020, using the ‘Vanuatu Guidelines for Safe Businesses Operations (SBO) in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. These SBO guidelines were developed in close collaboration between the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Health. This policy guideline includes measures and actions based on the scenarios in the Ministry of Health ‘COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan’ to carry out safe business operations during a pandemic. This guideline will provide awareness and guidance and will communicate to every business the measures required to be identified as ‘Clean, Caring and Checked’. One or more safety officers from each business will be identified for training, to carry out risk assessment and compliance with health  measures across all scenarios to allow a business to safely operate in a time of COVID.

Businesses will need to prepare, understand, respond and take responsibility under each transmission scenario and carry out the recommended Public Health actions. The criteria are drafted in the context of mitigating known risks as Vanuatu prepares for the easing of restrictions on international borders and for businesses to be ready with appropriate measures to action for their staff and customers safety. This will provide confidence for workers, customers, and the government that appropriate safe measures are being taken in the workplace and that there is integrity in these measures.

The Department of Tourism is currently identifying training providers to deliver the SBO training. Independent Auditors will also be sourced to undertake a program of spot checks and auditing to ensure that businesses remain compliant with the SBO Guidelines. Credibility and compliance of business operations in adhering to recognized

COVID-19 measures and standards is crucial. These measures are benchmarked to national, regional and international standards.

This training needs to be completed for businesses to receive the ‘Clean, Caring and Checked - CCC’ certification to show that they have achieved this level of safe operations. The guidelines and self-verification checklist,

of which one of the questions will ask if you have attended the training, will be on the Department of Tourism’s website, and be linked with the website. The Government will ensure there is compliance with the new health and safety procedures and provide support to tourism businesses to assist to ensure that they are business ready.

‘Pilot’ training sessions have been conducted. The purpose of piloting the training is to allow constructive feedback from a range of participants that were selected which included staff, business owners and managers from

different business sectors which include transport, handicraft, accommodation, tours, attractions and public service businesses. This feedback is being used to further tailor the training to enhance the standards and delivery to the different tourism sectors.

The Department of Tourism is in Tanna this week running workshops and

having meetings to assist the area secretaries, community leaders and operators to understand the objectives of the Tourism Recovery Plan, and explain how businesses and communities need to prepare in terms of health and safety, and readiness of businesses and staff.

In Efate consultations with stakeholders including The Malvatumauri President, Chairman of Vanuatu Christian Council (VCC) and other Government Institutions continue this week.

Teams are working tirelessly to implement the immediate response and recovery plan and to communicate to everyone what is being done.

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