Many answers to commonly asked questions about COVID-19 can be found under the Things to Know and Things to Do sections.

Below are some other frequently asked questions the Ministry of Health has received.

COVID-19 Info

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe respiratory diseases. The novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously detected. This virus causes what is called Coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19.

5 things to do

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5 Things to Do

Wash your hands frequently

Wash your hands with soap and water and shake well or, if your hands are not visibly dirty, use an alcohol-based hand rub. This will remove the virus if it is on your hands.

Cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when coughing and sneezing

Throw away the used tissue immediately and wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand rub. This way you protect others from any virus released through coughs and sneezes.

If possible, keep a distance of at least 1-metre between yourself and someone who is coughing, sneezing or has a fever

COVID-19 appears to spread most easily through close contact with an infected person. Avoid overcrowding and ensure there is good ventilation.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

Hands touch many surfaces which can be contaminated with the virus. If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your unclean hands, you can transfer the virus from the surface to yourself. Regularly clean and disinfect frequent touched surfaces.

If you have fever, cough AND difficulty breathing, seek medical care. Go to your nearest health facility.
If possible, phone ahead and inform the health center when you will visit

Always follow the guidance of your health care professional or national health advisories. When advised by the Ministry of Health, due to the changing situation be prepared to wear masks and practice physical distancing.

5 things to know

English Bislama French

5 Things to Know

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new coronavirus, which has not been previously identified in humans. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in both animals and humans.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

In most cases, COVID-19 causes mild symptoms including a runny nose, sore throat, cough and fever, fatigue, aches and pains and loss of taste or smell. It can be more severe for some people and can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties. In some cases, infection can lead to death.

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 appears to spread most easily through close contact with an infected person. When someone who has COVID-19 coughs or sneezes, small droplets are released and, if you are too close, you can breathe in the virus.

Who is most at risk?

We still need to learn more about how COVID-19 affects people. All people are at risk to get COVID-19. Older people, and people with other medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, appear to be more at risk of developing severe disease.

What is the treatment for COVID-19?

Currently, there is no treatment. There are vaccines approved by World Health Organization (WHO) to protect and prevent transmission of COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccine that Vanuatu will receive has proven to be safe and effective, having undergone extremely strict safety checks and clinical trials and received WHO Emergency Use List. Get vaccinated .When advice by the Ministry of Health, get the COVID-19 vaccination.


How is COVID-19 transmitted?

The virus is spread primarily from person to person through respiratory droplets, when:

  • An infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks and the droplets land in the mouth or are inhaled through the nose (possibly into the lungs) of persons nearby.
  • A person touches a surface contaminated by droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person, and afterwards they touch their mouth or face.

These droplets are too heavy to hang in the air. They quickly fall on floors and surfaces.

How long can the virus survive on surfaces?

How long can the virus survive on surfaces? Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant (like bleach) to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

Is it safe to receive a package from any area where COVID-19 has been reported?

Yes. The likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low and the risk of catching the virus that causes COVID-19 from a package that has been moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.

Can the Virus be transmitted through touching and sharing clothes or cloth?

Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the COVID-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).It is unknown what the likelihood is of contamination from touching or sharing clothing or cloth.

If you are handling dirty laundry from a person who is confirmed or suspected to have coronavirus, wash your hands appropriately after handling their clothing before you touch your face or other surfaces. You should also disinfect any surfaces that the clothing has come in contact with

Wash the items using laundry detergent and clean water for the items and dry the items completely (in the sun if possible) before using them again

Is it safe to share spoons, forks and plates?

Coronaviruses are sensitive to both heat and detergents (including soap). For this reason, individuals must wash dishes before another person uses the same utensils.

People have been told to bring their own cups or bottle to the nakamal for take away, but what about the people who prepare the kava?

People who are preparing the kava should take the same hygiene measures as advised by the Ministry of Health and WHO. If you are not confident that they have used these measures and think that the kava is NOT safe to drink, do not buy or drink the kava. The kava preparation area MUST have a hand washing station available.

Is it possible to get COVID-19 via untreated drinking water?

Untreated drinking water is not an identified main route of coronavirus transmission, but in many places in Vanuatu the water may be contaminated with bacteria, parasites or other viruses so it is always a good idea to boil, filter or treat water before consumption.

Can I catch COVID-19 from a person who has no symptoms?

The risk of catching COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms is still unclear. There is some evidence of community spread by people with no or very mild symptoms of COVID-19 but the risk is very low. WHO is assessing ongoing research on the period between initial infection and transmission of the novel coronavirus and will continue to share updated findings.

How long will a person with COVID-19 remain infectious?

At this stage the research to answer this question is in very early stages, and no clear answers can be given yet.

Is it safe to have sex?

While COVID-19 isn't a sexually transmitted infection, sex will bring you in very close contact to other people and increase the risk of transmission. If you or your partner is a COVID-19 case, you should keep away from each other as much as possible. If you and your regular partner do not have symptoms and if it is unlikely that you or your partner have recently been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, it is safe to have sex.

Can COVID-19 be transmitted through blood transfusion?

There is currently no data or evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted by blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases of transmissions for any respiratory virus, including this coronavirus, worldwide.

Can mosquitos or other vectors transmit the disease?

To date there has been no information nor evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes, insects, rodents or other vectors.

Can COVID-19 be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates?

From the evidence so far, the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in ALL AREAS, including areas with hot and humid weather. Regardless of climate, adopt preventive measures.


What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don't develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.

Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

If I am infected by someone who has COVID-19, how many days will it take for me to show symptoms?

The “incubation period” means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 1-14 days. These estimates will be updated as more data becomes available.

What is the difference between the flu and COVID-19?

In Vanuatu, we use the word ‘flu' for every type of respiratory disease, including the common cold, influenza, and COVID-19. The flu and COVID-19 are similar in some ways – they have similar respiratory symptoms and both are spread the same way, via small droplets of fluid from the nose and mouth of someone who is sick. However, COVID-19 can cause more severe disease than the flu, and can cause more deaths.

What are the different symptoms of a cold, influenza and COVID-19?

What are the different symptoms of a cold, influenza and COVID-19? If you have influenza, you can have fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, muscle/body aches, headaches and fatigue (tiredness). The symptoms of a cold are usually milder than the symptoms of influenza. People with colds are more likely to only have a runny or stuffy nose.

The symptoms for COVID-19 are similar to those of influenza. However, for COVID-19, more people also have difficulty breathing.

Is diarrhoea a symptom of COVID-19?

Diarrhoea has been reported among 5 to 10% of COVID-19 cases, but is not one of the main symptoms.


How dangerous is COVID-19?

As with other respiratory illnesses, infection with COVID-19 can cause mild symptoms including a runny nose, sore throat, cough, and fever. Others may become very sick and require care at the hospital. It can be more severe for some persons and can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties.

More rarely, the disease can be fatal. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as, diabetes and heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

Does COVID-19 affect older people, or are younger people also susceptible?

Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus. However, people of all ages can be infected.

WHO advises people of all ages take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene, covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and maintaining a distance of 1 meter from people who are sick.

Who is at risk of developing severe illness?

While we are still learning about how COVID-19 affects people, older persons and persons with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, cancer or diabetes) appear to develop serious illness more often than others.

How do I protect vulnerable people against COVID-19?

If people are vulnerable, for example because they have other health conditions or because they are older, they are strongly recommended to stay away from other people, except for their close family members, as much as possible.

They and their close family members should strictly follow the advice from the Ministry of Health and WHO.

Are smokers and tobacco users at higher risk of COVID-19 infection?

Smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 as the act of smoking means that fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) are in contact with lips which increases the possibility of transmission of virus from hand to mouth. Smokers may also already have lung disease or reduced lung capacity which greatly increases the risk of serious illness.

Smoking products such as e-cigarettes often involve the sharing of mouth pieces which could facilitate the transmission of COVID-19 in communal and social settings. Conditions that increase oxygen needs or reduce the ability of the body to use it properly will put patients at higher risk of serious lung conditions such as pneumonia.

Protective Equipment and Clothing

Who should wear a mask?

  • Healthy people do not need to wear a mask. People who should wear a mask:
    • Health workers and people conducting health screenings
    • Individuals caring for a person with COVID-19
    • Individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms who can't avoid contact with others
  • Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol- based hand rub or soap and water
  • If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.

There are currently no cases of COVID-19 in Vanuatu. If there are cases, masks will be urgently needed for health care providers caring for patients. Because masks are in short supply, everyone is better off if they are reserved for those who actually require them, such as those who can't avoid exposure to people who are or may be infected.

Should I wear gloves to protect myself against coronavirus?

No. Regularly washing your bare hand with soap and water offers more protection against COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves. You can still pick up COVID-19 contamination on rubber gloves. If you then touch your face, the virus can move from the glove to your face and infect you.

The Ministry of Health and WHO recommend regularly washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (or as long as it takes to sing happy birthday twice) to kill viruses that may be on your hands.


What should I do if I think I could have COVID-19?

If a person has returned from travel abroad within 14 days and experiences any symptoms of fever, cough or difficulty breathing, they should go to their nearest health facilities. If possible, they should call their health facilities before the visit.

If a person is suspected to have COVID-19, how will they be cared for?

Any person who is suspected of having COVID-19 based on clinical symptoms, travel history or recent contact with cases or travellers will be required to be placed in isolation. They will have to stay there for the entire time that they are ill or until laboratory test results indicate that theydo not have COVID-19. For more information on isolation, see “Quarantine and Isolation.”

How is COVID-19 treated?

If a person has confirmed COVID-19, they are provided treatment to reduce the symptoms. There is no specific medication to treat COVID-19 and no vaccine to prevent infection. You can help treat the symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, by:

  • Taking the recommended dose of paracetamol to relieve fever and pains
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Eating nutritious foods
  • Taking plenty of rest at home.

Does Vanuatu have enough ventilatory support for people who are suffering from COVID-19?

Vanuatu had limited ventilatory support but have recently received additional ventilatory equipment. Ventilatory support also requires a large number of trained health workers to maintain care.

The Ministry of Health has recently installed a new Oxygen Plant at VCH that will assist in treatment for those with COVID-19.

Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating COVID-19?

No. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, they only work on bacterial infections. COVID-19 is caused by a virus, so antibiotics do not work. Do not use antibiotics to prevent or treat COVID- 19. People should only use antibiotics as directed by a doctor to treat a bacterial infection.

Is Chloroquine an effective treatment for COVID-19?

No. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are drugs that are approved to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. They are still being assessed in clinical trials to see if they are a safe and effective COVID-19 treatment so should not be used.

When will a vaccine be ready?

Until now, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-19. Possible vaccines and some specific medication for treatment are under investigation. They are being tested through clinical trials.

WHO is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19 which must undergo a detailed and systematic assessment process to be declared safe and effective for use.

Can you have COVID-19 more than once?

Research is still being conducted on immunity from COVID-19. At this point in time, there is some data to suggest that people who have had COVID-19 and recovered become immune, meaning they are less likely to become infected again with the virus. However, this does not necessarily mean that people are unable to contract Coronavirus more than once.

What are the longer-term personal health impacts if one contracts COVID?

The long-term health effects of COVID-19 are not yet known.

If your questions are not answered here on in the resources on our website, please contact the free Health Information Hotline on 119.