After closing its international borders to everyone except citizens and residents two years ago following the COVID-19 pandemic, Vanuatu is reopening and reconnecting with the world starting this Friday.
Vanuatu had not recorded a local transmission case until early this year. Border closure and strict entry protocols were effective in keeping the virus out from the country, and the high vaccination rate has helped prevent illness and keep death rates low.
The government initially announced that the border would reopen to international travelers by March this year, subject to a high vaccination rate. The vaccination target was not met, thus the plan was postponed to 1 July 2022.
Upgrades were also made to the Vila Central Hospital to ensure the continuation of care and support for COVID-19 patients.
As of 19 June, 83% of the adult eligible population have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines and 75% are fully vaccinated. 16.8 percent have not been vaccinated and 7.4 percent are partially vaccinated.
To date, 11,174 confirmed cases have been reported in Vanuatu, with 195 active cases and 10,963 recovered cases. The number of deaths remains at 14.
International visitors will be able to return to the country, by both air and sea, in a few days. Cruise ships can now enter Vanuatu waters without restrictions.
None of the tourists or travellers will be required to be fully vaccinated although it is strongly encouraged. They will still need to show proof of vaccination.
Travellers will travel to Vanuatu without needing to quarantine. This has already been effective since 14 June, as part of the soft border reopening. The travel approval process will be simplified from 1 July, according to the Ministry of Health.
The Vanuatu Tourism Office (VTO) is arranging a small welcome event for the passengers arriving on the first flights this Friday, to mark the border reopening.
Prime Minister (PM), Bob Loughman, who is returning back from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda, Africa, that day is expected to give a short official statement at a small event at the VIP Lounge.
Meanwhile, Niue is the latest Pacific Island to open to New Zealand tourists, after more than two years of being shut due to the pandemic.
The first flight arrived yesterday.
Niue Tourism Destination Manager Gaye Wood said as far as the Niue operators go it is a matter of them being excited but also a little bit anxious because it is a big step for any destination to be opening up and Niue is no different than that
She said a new commitment to a Multiple-Use Marine Park known as Niue Nukutuluea is larger than the landmass of New Zealand and is expected to be a real highlight for tourists.
“The whales, the dolphins, the snorkelling the diving, the fishing there is so much there that will be sustainable from here on both for locals and for tourists to enjoy,” she said.