Vanuatu looks to reopen borders with virus-free countries

Photo: Xinhua

Port Vila, Vanuatu | Coronavirus-free Vanuatu has announced plans to cautiously reopen its borders, starting with a safe travel bubble with its Southwest Pacific neighbour New Caledonia.



From April, the so-called "Tamtam Bubble" will allow access to Efate Island, Vanuatu's largest island and home to the capital Port Vila.



A government spokesman said Saturday that leaders would meet next week "to formalise the Tamtam Travel Bubble between Port Vila and Noumea", the capital of New Caledonia.



Vanuatu Prime Minister Bob Loughman told community leaders that priority would initially be given to people travelling on compassionate grounds for healthcare, education, employment, technical assistance and visiting family and friends.



New Caledonia was chosen because it is "a low-risk country with no active community cases for more than 28 days".



Plans were under way to extend the bubble to other countries which have been free of Covid-19 for at least a month, with the government spokesman saying Fiji was at the head of the list.



The bubble is named after the tamtam drum, which is common in Melanesian countries as a means of communication and is usually erected in a chief's "nasara" or compound.



Vanuatu recorded its only case of Covid-19 last November, in a returned traveller from the United States, while New Caledonia hasn't registered a new case since December, with a total of 57 cases since the pandemic began.

© Agence France-Presse


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