Port Vila, Vanuatu—Vanuatu slapped travel restrictions on its most populous island Monday after tests confirmed a body that washed ashore on the largely coronavirus-free Pacific nation was infected with COVID-19.
Government sources said the deceased was a Filipino sailor whose vessel had left Port Vila a day before his body was found washed up near a village about five kilometres (3.1 miles) outside the city on Sunday 11 April.
The Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday confirmed the report.
DFA Executive Director for Strategic Communications Ivy Banzon-Abalos revealed that the Philippine Embassy in Australia through the Philippine Consulate General in Vanuatu has been in touch with the manning agency and has informed the seaman’s family.
“It was in the local news there that a Filipino crew member was discovered missing from the foreign vessel as it left Vanuatu. Shortly, the body was found on the beach,” Abalos said.
“Under Philippine laws, the local manning agency is mandated to ensure that the family will receive all the benefits due to the family of the deceased,” he added.
The man’s crewmates and police officers who retrieved the body had all tested negative for the virus, said the sources, who wished to remain anonymous as they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
It was not clear how or where the man died, or how his body ended up in the sea.
The Pacific island nation has recorded only three coronavirus cases, all in arriving travelers, and the National Disaster Management Office said it was taking steps to ensure there was no transmission among the population of 200,000.
It ordered a three-day ban starting Monday on all outward domestic and international travel from Efete, the island where Port Vila and a large part of the population are located.
“(The) public are strongly advised to remain calm and maintain safe and healthy hygiene practices at all times,” it said.
The Philippine Embassy in Australia is closely monitoring the investigation on the case, the DFA official said.
“The embassy in Australia stands ready to provide the appropriate assistance on the repatriation of the remains,” Abalos said. With AFP