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COVID-19 alert in Vanuatu after infected body washes ashore

COVID-19 alert in Vanuatu after infected body washes ashore

The Pacific island nation of Vanuatu announced its first COVID-19 case last November, which ended its status as one of the world's few virus-free countries. (File photo: AFP/Torsten Blackwood)

PORT VILA, Vanuatu: Vanuatu slapped travel restrictions on its most populous island on Monday (Apr 19) after tests confirmed that 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 5km outside the city on Apr 11.

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 authorised to discuss the matter.

It was not clear how or where the man died, or how his body ended up in the sea.

READ: Fiji cities under lockdown after first COVID-19 community case in a year

The Pacific island nation has recorded just three COVID-19 cases, all in arriving travellers, 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 on 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.

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Source: AFP/kg

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