Public Health Emergency
On 1 February 2022, the Minister of Health of the Republic of Vanuatu announced a Public Health Emergency for COVID-19. This declaration under the Vanuatu Public Health Act [Cap 234] enables the Ministry of Health to assume responsibility for preparedness and response to a public health event of significant concern. An Order was issued to support the declaration. The Public Health Emergency was declared as lifted by the Minister of Health on 16 June 2022. Declaration of Public Health (Amendment) Order No. 6 of 2022
Decisions and orders related to COVID-19 and the Public Health Emergency are also available here.
The following groups have responsibility for coordinating and implementing COVID-19 preparedness and response activities in Vanuatu under the declaration of a Public Health Emergency:
- Health Emergency Advisory Committee: national and intersectoral coordination and response management. Reports to the Minister of Health and sets in place instruments of direction and regulation orders related to COVID-19 (Chair: Ministry of Health Director General).
- National Health Incident Management Team: coordination and implementation of day-to-day health sector operations (Chair: Ministry of Health Director of Corporate Services, Policy and Planning).
- Hospital and Provincial Health Emergency Operation Centres: day-to-day health sector operations in facilities and provinces (Chairs: respective senior provincial management).
- Health and Nutrition cluster: coordinates with the Ministry of Health, development partners and other sectors.
A Health Technical Advisory Group of subject-matter experts from the Ministry of Health and development partners convenes regularly to issue technical recommendations at the request of the Health Emergency Advisory Committee. Other health committees and groups meet as required regarding specific issues, such as vaccination, surveillance, and infection prevention and control.
State of Emergency
A State of Emergency Declaration allows special powers as set out in the Disaster Risk Management Act No. 23 of 2019.
On 26 March 2020 the President of Vanuatu signed a declaration for a State of Emergency (SOE) over the whole of Vanuatu for a two-week period, for the purpose of strengthening prevention and containment measures in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Since April the SOE has been extended multiple times for the dual purposes of continuing COVID-19 prevention and containment measures as well as responding to Tropical Cyclone Harold which impacted Vanuatu on 6 – 7 April 2020.
Under the National SOE the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) was responsible for national and intersectoral coordination and response management. The National COVID-19 Advisory Committee set in place instruments of direction and regulation orders related to COVID-19 (Chair: NDMO Director).
The national SOE continued until 31 January 2022, at which point the Public Health Emergency was declared under the Public Health Act as the presiding legislation.