This Island Nation Was Spared the Worst of COVID. Then a Body Washed Ashore.

Authorities confirmed the person was a seafarer from the Philippines.

Apr 20 2021, 6:57am

Out of a population of some 300,000 people, the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu has reported a remarkably low three coronavirus cases, according to the World Health Organization.

But it ordered a three-day outbound travel ban after the discovery of a man’s body on a beach near the main wharf of the capital Port Vila on April 11, according to Radio New Zealand

The body of a Filipino seafarer that washed ashore reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting a health scare in a country that has been spared the ravages of the pandemic.


Prime Minister Bob Loughman announced the body tested positive for coronavirus after testing was done at a local hospital, the report said. He urged residents to voluntarily get tested, even if the risk of transmission is low.

In a document posted on Facebook, the country’s disaster management office said the ban covers both domestic and international travel to allow health authorities to conduct contact tracing. It urged residents to remain calm and observe coronavirus protocols.

The day the body was discovered, a United Kingdom-flagged tanker discovered that one of its crew members was not on board when it left Port Vila, the Radio New Zealand report said. Port authorities ordered the ship to return and search for any missing crew. The ship was detained after the body tested positive for COVID-19.

In response, health authorities confirmed that 16 people, most of them policemen who attended the scene, have been put in quarantine in a hotel in Vanuatu. 

An estimated 337,000 Filipino seafarers were deployed in shipping industries across the world in 2018, according to Philippine labor department, although the number has dwindled because of the pandemic. 


On Monday, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed that the man was a Filipino national.

“Yes, 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,” Ivy Banzon-Abalos, a communications officer for the DFA, said in a message to reporters.

The department, however, has yet to verify reports that the body tested positive for COVID. It said the Philippine Embassy in Australia was instructed to help coordinate an investigation into the death of the seafarer.

The Philippines now has the highest number of coronavirus cases among countries in the Western Pacific region, according to data from the World Health Organization. The total number of deaths is approaching 16,000.


Philippines, Vanuatu, worldnews, world coronavirus

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