Island Halts Travel After Dead Sailor Tests Positive

Vanuatu recorded only 3 previous COVID cases
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2021 12:25 PM CDT
Island Locked Down After Body of Infected Sailor Washes Up
The man's body was found on a beach near Port Vila.   (Philip Capper/Wikipedia)

Being an island nation has helped Vanuatu avoid the worst of the pandemic—but its strict border controls didn't stop the arrival of its latest case. Officials in the Pacific nation say the body of a Filipino sailor that washed up on a beach April 11 has tested positive for COVID-19, Radio New Zealand reports. There is little chance of catching the virus from a corpse, according to the CDC, but with only three previous cases reported in the country of around 300,000, Vanuatu is not taking any chances. Some 16 people, mostly police officers called to the scene when the body was found, have been put in quarantine and outbound travel from the country's main island, Efate, has been halted for three days.

Prime Minister Bob Loughman said the travel ban is in place while contact tracing is carried out. He urged members of the public to get tested. It's not clear how the sailor died or how his body ended up on a beach near the capital, Port Vila, CNN reports. The man was a crew member on a British-flagged tanker that found he was missing as it sailed out of Port Vila on the day the body was found, authorities say. Vanuatu was one of the world's only COVID-free countries until November last year, when its first case was reported. Two more cases were reported last month. (In a remote part of the archipelago, Prince Philip was worshipped as a "god-like spiritual figure.")

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