March 27, 2020: A nation-wide State of Emergency (SOE) has been declared, with curfews imposed to restrict the operation of businesses, public transportation and fuel stations except essential services to halt the spread of coronavirus.

All businesses have been ordered to close by 7.30pm. All transportation and fuel stations in Vanuatu are prohibited to operate after 9pm.

Under the State of Emergency Regulation order no.35 of 2020, all retail and wholesale shops, kava bars, night clubs, casinos, bars and restaurants are not essential services.

All social gatherings of more than five people are prohibited.The order defines social as carrying out communal tasks; holding competitions; religious purposes; traditional ceremonies; sporting events; or casual meetings.

Publication of articles on COVID-19 are restricted. All media outlets must not publish any article on coronavirus unless authorized by NDMO after consultation with the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) may issue directions to any ministries, department, statutory entity, community, company or individual to control the spread of COVID-19 and assist with economy recovery.

Vanuatu Police Force (VPF) is to ensure compliance with all directions of NDMO and promote peace and ensure the safety of all person.

These orders, issued yesterday, were made by the Council of Ministers (COM) in accordance with article 69 (b) of the Constitution and are set to last for 14 days

In his official address to the nation after the emergency declaration, the Caretaker Prime Minister (PM) outlined the measures that the government will be taking to handle the threat at all levels.

Some of these measures are: controlling the movement of people internally, increasing public campaign on protection against COVID-19, ensuring continuation of essential services, enforcing good hygiene practices and social distancing, drinking “kava” at home and encouraging family containment.

Under censorship of media information about COVID-19, the caretaker PM said anyone spreading false information on Facebook and media outlets will be dealt with by the law.

“The SOE declaration will help address ignorance and protect citizens,” he said

“Since the outbreak of the virus, a lot of measures were provided by the government and Coronavirus Task Force to protect citizens and the country.

“However, a lot of ignorant people still refuse to take the measures seriously.

“Citizens were still traveling out despite measures in place. Some of these citizens are stranded abroad.

“While the government is working to repatriate the stranded citizen, the cooperation of everyone in enforcing control and preventive measures is essential.

“I want to assure citizens not to panic and that the government is working with local supplies to ensure there is sufficient goods in stock.

“Cargo ships will continue to come and planes too will transport food if needed to. Health facilities in Port Vila and Santo will be upgraded to meet the WHO requirements of treating COVID-19.

“We are working with donor partners to supply us with testing and screening equipment. We will bring specialist doctors to help us in testing and preventing the virus.”

He urged all community leaders to unite and continue to demonstrate the country’s spirit of resilience, but this time against COVID-19.

Together we will protect Vanuatu from COVID-19, he added.