The National Disaster Committee (NDC) has asked the Government to extend the State of Emergency (SOE) imposed for COVID-19, in order to respond to the immediate needs of families impacted by cyclone Harold.

This has been confirmed by caretaker Prime Minister (PM) Charlot Salwai yesterday afternoon.

The Council of Ministers (COM) will meet before the end of this week to consider the request for the SOE extension that will address both COVID-19 and Harold, he said.

The full impact of the cyclone has yet to be realized as the affected islands in the provinces of TORBA, SANMA, PENAMA, MALAMPA and part of SHEFA are still without network coverage.

He said Telecom Vanuatu Limited (TVL), Digicel and the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) have already been mobilized to restore telecommunication networks.

He said some teams had been deployed to restore mobile networks, water and electricity in Malekula and Santo.

“The government will respond to the recovery needs of the people once it receives an official report from aerial assessments being conducted by the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) and stakeholders,” he said.

“After assessing the full extent of the damage, a recovery plan will be developed to guide the government in its response efforts.

“I have held an urgent meeting recently with the Directors General (DGS) to discuss how the government can respond to the cyclone impacts.

“After lessons learnt from TC Pam, I told the DGs to ensure that we will provide iron roofing to those who need shelter instead of tents. I want to see a limit in the supply of canned meat and rice as relief and more local food.

“I’m appealing to the development partners to support our economy industry by buying local supplies during this period of crisis.”

The caretaker PM stressed that the impacts of coronavirus pandemic on economy analyzed by the Finance and Treasury indicate a drop on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 6.8%.

“The impact of COVID-19 and TC Harold on economy doubles the impact brought by Pam. We anticipate the COVID-19 impact on employment and economy to be worse than Pam.

“Cyclone Harold has affected a lot of islands supporting agriculture and food security. Most of these islands are main producers of cocoa, copra, kava, cash crops such as taro, manioc including forestry.

“It will take months and years for these products to recovery., which means the economy will drop and farmers will face challenges in meeting basic needs.”

The caretaker PM assured that development partners are ready to assist Vanuatu respond to the cyclone.

He commended the governments of China and France for supporting response efforts of COVID-19 and cyclone Harold.

The current SOE ends tomorrow. While NDMO will be lifting the suspension on internal movement and imposing strict international border restrictions, the PM said this does not mean that the coronavirus threat is gone.

He urged everyone to work together with the government to address the two disasters.