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.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses.
SARS-CoV-2 is a specific novel (or new) type of coronavirus that had not previously been seen in humans.
COVID-19 is the infectious disease, caused by the novel (or new) coronavirus SARS-COV-2. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV”.
This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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
The symptoms for COVID-19 are similar to those of influenza. However, for COVID-19, more
people also have difficulty breathing.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
It does not matter which soap you use. Any type or brand of soap works: dish, laundry, or hand
One low cost option is to mix 1.5 litres of water with 30 grams (2-3 tablespoons) of laundry
powder or whatever is enough to make bubbles. By washing your hands with soap and water,
you are destroying the virus and removing it from your skin.
Washing with soap and water is better. While alcohol-based hand sanitizer kills the coronavirus,
it does not clean your hands if they are dirty or kill all kinds of bacteria and viruses. For example,
it is relatively ineffective against the norovirus and rotavirus. Therefore, the Ministry of Health
recommends washing hands with soap and water frequently.
You can help children wash their hands by making handwashing easier for them, for instance, by
setting up a stool or building a tippy tap close to the ground so they can reach the water and
soap by themselves. You can make it fun for them by singing their favourite songs while you
help them rub their hands.
To protect yourself against COVID-19, you must wash with water and soap for at least 20
seconds, because the soap will kill the virus. You can use sea water if needed, but using sea
water alone, without soap, does not work.
The DoWR and WASH Cluster is working to provide water to fill community water
stations. Individuals should build water efficient hand washing station, such as a tippy tap, and
limit water use by not having the tap run while lathering your hands with soap (i.e. only having
the tap on, while wetting and then rinsing your hands). While soap and water is preferred, hand sanitizer can be used as an alternative. Hand sanitizer
should contain a minimum of 70% alcohol to effectively kill viruses and germs
If you have a skin condition, for example eczema, hand-washing is generally better than hand
sanitizer. Applying moisturizer after each hand-washing can offset much of the drying effects of
hand-washing. If you have a skin condition, after washing your hands, pat them dry or shake
them dry. Do not rub because that may damage your skin. When your skin is almost dry, apply a
generous amount of moisturizer to coat the entire surface of your hands and fingers.
Respiratory hygiene is the same as cough hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose
with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue
immediately in a rubbish bin.
Droplets spread viruses. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around
you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
Physical distancing, otherwise known as social distancing, is a term used to describe a public
health measure to stop or slow down the spread of infectious diseases, like COVID-19. It means
that you should reduce your physical contact with other people, which reduces your risk of
getting exposed to coronavirus. People should keep 1 meter distance between themselves and
Everyone should practice physical distancing measures in their daily lives to protect themselves,
their families and co-workers from COVID-19. Whilst cancelling large events or gatherings play
an important role, you also need to take responsibility and an active role to change your routine
practices to reduce your risk of COVID-19.
Physical and social distancing are terms that are both often used to describe the public health
measure of keeping a distance (of at least 1 metre) between yourself and other people. It
helps to stop or slow down the spread of an infectious disease.
WHO and many other organisations around the world are now promoting the use of the term
'physical' distancing, rather than 'social' distancing for this practice. This is because even though
we need to maintain a physical distance between ourselves and others to limit the spread of
COVID-19, we should not socially distance ourselves from each other.
It is important that we maintain our social connections and contact with family, friends and our community whilst
adhering to new measures to protect ourselves and our loved ones. We can do so by keeping at
least 1 metre between ourselves and others and adhering to any restrictions put in place by the
government should COVID-19 be identified in Vanuatu. We should also frequently wash our
hands, uphold respiratory/cough hygiene and avoid touching our eyes, nose and mouth.
If neither you nor your children have COVID-19, you can still touch and hug your children. Make
sure that you and your family follow the guidelines under 'How do I protect myself and others
from COVID-19?' at all times.
Research is still being conducted but at present there is no evidence that you are at higher risk
of severe illness than the general population. However, due to changes in your body and
immune system, pregnant women can be badly affected by some respiratory infections. It is
therefore important to take precautions against COVID-19, and report possible symptoms
(including fever, cough or difficulty breathing) to your healthcare provider.
There is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating a Vitamin C rich diet, garlic or ginger
has protected people from COVID-19. A healthy diet is essential for good health and nutrition
and protects against many chronic non communicable diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes
and cancer. The WHO recommends eating a variety of foods (including plenty of fruits and
vegetables), and consuming less salt, sugars and fats.
If a medical officer suspects that a person is infected by COVID-19 (using the WHO case definition), a swab of the nose and back of the throat will be used to collect a sample. Then, the sample will be sent as the laboratory with the capacity to test for coronavirus. If the person has contracted the disease, they will have a positive test.
The testing policy in Vanuatu is that only people with symptoms (such as a fever, shortness of
breath, cough and respiratory illness) who have travelled internationally within 14 days, or came
in contact with a confirmed case, can be tested. If suspected by a clinician, some additional
people can be included for testing. There is a restriction on the number of tests available
internationally, therefore not everyone in the community can be tested.
As part of the Vanuatu Government's preparedness to respond to potential imported cases of
COVID-19, isolation and quarantine facilities are being identified. Isolation and quarantine are
standard public health measures taken to protect the public by stopping or limiting the spread of
a contagious disease, like COVID-19.
Isolation is used to separate sick individuals from other, uninfected people. During isolation,
generally at a dedicated ward at a hospital, the patient will be isolated from other people, and
will be provided appropriate medical care. Health care workers will be provided appropriate
personal protective equipment to help protect them from the virus, whilst providing care to the
Individuals who are well, may be quarantined if there is a risk they may have been exposed to
the virus and become sick. For example, if a person travelled on the same plane as a sick
Quarantining is a precautionary measure that helps reduce the risk of a contagious disease
spreading. If a person is quarantined, they will be restricted to a specific location and monitored
closely for 14 days to see if they become sick. If after 14 days they don't become sick, then they
will be cleared and allowed to re-enter the general community.
In Vanuatu, quarantine will be required for those who are asymptomatic but have either travel
history to an affected country or had contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.
The quarantine period of 14 days is based on the incubation period of the virus – the time
between catching the virus and when symptoms develop. Most estimates of the incubation
period for COVID-19 range from 1 to 14 days, most commonly around five. In other words, if
you don't develop symptoms in that two-week period, it's highly unlikely you have COVID-19.
No. Your risk of contracting the virus will not be increased by your proximity to the isolation
ward or quarantine facility alone. The disease can spread from person to person through small
droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or
exhales. This is why you should maintain appropriate physical distance from others (1 meter),
along with handwashing, not touching one's face, and good respiratory hygiene.
Provide a handwashing station with running water and soap at all entrances.
Ensure regular cleaning of the toilets, workstations, equipment, office, itchen, and the immediate surroundings of the workplace buildings. Support the cleaner to create a regular and frequent cleaning regime to include regularly disinfecting surfaces, and to empty the rubbish bins regularly.
Help your employees to maintain a hygienic workplace by providing them with supplies such as soap, boxes of tissues, and disinfectant.
Display public health posters and messages in the workplace.
Support working mothers to continue breastfeeding in clean and comfortable breastfeeding facilities.
All cargo arriving by airfreight have been disinfected upon arrival and are being quarantined
for 3 days before release. There is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted during cargo
handling. However, disinfection and quarantine is an additional measure taken by the Vanuatu
government. (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).
All around the world, people are taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves and
their families from coronavirus. Sound preparation, based on scientific evidence, is what is
needed at this time. Many people are sharing information about the virus and how to protect
against it, but not all information is useful or reliable. Misinformation during a pandemic can be
dangerous, because it can result in people being left unprotected or more vulnerable to the
virus. It can also spread paranoia, fear, and stigmatization, and have other consequences like
offering a false sense of protection.