Port Vila, Vanuatu 24 February 2021: The Vanuatu Government has officially announced that it has started implementing the Tamtam Travel Bubble.
The Tamtam Travel Bubble was first announced during the celebrations of Vanuatu’s fortieth anniversary of Independence in 2020. It provides a staged pathway for the safe re-opening of Vanuatu’s borders with our neighbouring countries.
Prime Minister, the Honourable Bob Weibur Loughman, in a speech to the nation last Friday 19 February, specified that the first stage of the Tamtam Travel Bubble will be the opening of Vanuatu’s border with New Caledonia. This is proposed for next April, pending final agreement on arrangements with the New Caledonian government.
It is necessary for the Government to begin implementing the Tamtam Travel Bubble now so Vanuatu’s economic recovery from the global COVID-19 pandemic can also begin, says the Prime Minister.
“The global COVID-19 pandemic has affected our economy and the livelihoods of thousands of our people. Since February 2020 when the global COVID-19 pandemic was declared, the Government has been managing the COVID-19 pandemic through the introduction of health protocols and border control measures that have been safeguarding our country and protecting our people”, said the Prime Minister during his speech.
“Not only were livelihoods affected by the pandemic, but the border closure has also prevented many of our people from visiting families, travelling out to receive medical care or studying overseas”, says Prime Minister Loughman.
“The Government cannot keep the border closed forever –– we need to start creating a pathway that allows us to go forward safely into the future while still minimising the risks to the people and prosperity of our country”, says Prime Minister Loughman.
Addressing community fears, Prime Minister Loughman asserted that Vanuatu has already shown that it is capable of managing COVID-19. The nation’s successful management of COVID-19 is evident in the public health and border control measures that the Government has put in place since the pandemic began, he says.
Vanuatu’s successful response began with the Government’s swift decision to close the country’s border on the 26th of March 2020 to prevent COVID-19 from gaining a foothold in Vanuatu.
Since then, the Government has developed a COVID-19 Health Response Plan that has allowed for the successful repatriation of over 5,000 citizens and residents from overseas.
The single COVD-19 case identified in the country was detected at the border last November in a citizen who was repatriated from abroad. The Vanuatu authorities treated this person in quarantine and then released them back into the community after 14 days, completely free from COVID-19.
The Prime Minister says each of these measures are proof that Vanuatu is more than capable of implementing the Tamtam Travel Bubble.
Moreover, the Prime Minister noted, the positive attitude that Vanuatu’s people displayed by accepting and practising COVID-safe public health measures has been key to the nation’s successful response. The Prime Minister congratulates the people of Vanuatu for this achievement and says that this is a solid foundation for the nation’s economic recovery.
Prime Minister Loughman said that the Government has chosen New Caledonia as the first country to re-open its borders with “because it is a low-risk country that’s had no active community cases for more than 28 days, and their COVID-19 prevention protocols are in line with Vanuatu’s health and security measures”.
“Vanuatu and New Caledonia also have a shared history with many connections between our people and our two countries”, added the Prime Minister.
The Government is undertaking the Tamtam Travel Bubble with New Caledonia as a trial to be closely and carefully monitored by both Governments.
Initially, only Port Vila and Efate will be included. Only when authorities are fully satisfied that all precautions and protocols are working will it be expanded to include the rest of the country.
Certain groups will be given priority to travel under the Vanuatu-New Caledonia Tamtam Travel Bubble. Initially, it will be limited to people travelling for compassionate reasons, as well as those travelling for health care, education, employment, to provide technical assistance, or to visit friends and family.
The Government has tasked the National Tamtam Travel Bubble Taskforce with setting in motion the policies and procedures needed to re-open our border with New Caledonia.
This week, the National Tamtam Travel Bubble Task Force has begun a national community-level communication about the Tamtam Travel Bubble, commencing in Port Vila, rural Efate and offshore islands. According to Prime Minister Loughman, the purpose of this is to inform all communities and their respective leaders about the health and border control protocols that are in place to protect the country. The private sector, civil society, and communities have all been invited to take part.
Under the Tamtam Travel Bubble, the Prime Minister further stated, all businesses must register with the relevant authorities and undergo COVID-19 Safe Business Operations (SBO) training. Prime Minister Loughman says that this training is mandatory for all businesses and their employees, and that more information regarding this will be communicated to the public soon.
The Vanuatu Government continues to emphasise the importance of practising enhanced hygiene and social distancing measures to ensure that Vanuatu remains COVID-19-free.
The official Vanuatu Government source for information on COVID-19 is the Vanuatu Ministry of Health’s website, https://covid19.gov.vu. The Government reminds all citizens and residents to get their information about COVID-19 and the Tamtam Travel Bubble from official sources only.
(Source: Government of the Republic of Vanuatu)