Nation’s drastic move after Covid infected body washes up

Tom Flanagan
·News Reporter
·3-min read

Australia's Indo-Pacific neighbour Vanuatu halted outbound travel from its largest island after a body infected with Covid-19 washed ashore.

Its main island Efate, with a population of more than 70,000 people, faced a three-day travel lockdown from Sunday after the body of a Filipino man in his 40s which washed up near the capital Port Vila on April 11 tested positive for the virus.

The sailor had been working on a gas tanker that arrived on April 7 but was later reported missing. It is unclear how the worker contracted the virus, with the tanker previously docking in Australia and virus-hit Papua New Guinea, the ABC reported.

The body was found near Port Vila (pictured). Source: Getty
The body was found near Port Vila (pictured). Source: Getty

Staff onboard the vessel as well as police and locals who discovered the body are all quarantining awaiting further test results.

Like many nations in the Pacific, Vanuatu has managed to shield itself from coronavirus, only recording the first of its three cases to date on November 10.

Yet Opposition Leader Ralph Regenvanu revealed his dismay at the decision to move the Covid-infected body to a prominent mortuary where people visit regularly to mourn lost ones.

He said it had taken more than a week for someone to perform an autopsy on the body because the person responsible was on a separate island. 

Fiji outbreak feared after positive cases

The scare comes as Fiji announced tightened Covid-19 restrictions from Monday after three local cases linked to quarantine facilities triggered a scramble from health authorities to contain a potential outbreak.

A soldier and a cleaner linked to a quarantine facility in Nadi tested positive on Sunday before the worker's daughter later tested positive on Tuesday. The cases are the first community cases in the country in over a year.

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The island nation's two of the largest cities Lautoka and Nadi were both subject to a 24-hour curfew on Monday yet as movements of the positive cases emerged, the whole nation was placed under lockdown restrictions.

The infected worker had attended a funeral on Saturday with more than 500 contacts.

"We are certain there are more cases out there," a statement from the Fijian Government read.

Residents have been told to only leave their homes for essential reasons including work, essential shopping or accessing essential services.

Gathering, including religious ones, have been banned while schools have been closed for three weeks. 

Fiji has recorded just 77 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had both outlined Pacific Island nations as potential suitors for future travel bubbles after the launch of the trans-Tasman bubble on Monday.

On Tuesday, an airport worker who cleaned planes from high-risk countries in Auckland tested positive for the virus.

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