Last updated May 13, 2021
Today’s Status, Looking Towards Fall 2021 — Yellow
Vanuatu has done an impressive job protecting their little islands from the pandemic. They took quick action to close their borders in April 2020, and to this date, have only three contained cases of the virus. The government is still taking an extremely cautious approach and aiming to have virus prevention rather than mitigation. It looks more like Spring 2022 may be the soonest it would open.
Check below to get more details on some key aspects that we’re watching. Each of these components help us determine when we’ll be able to send volunteers to Vanuatu again (it’s stuff you’re going to want to know). Also, this info can change often. Our goal is to keep things current with weekly updates, so check back frequently.
At the first news of the virus, this tropical paradise closed their airports and borders on March 23, 2020. The tactic was extreme but successful — Vanuatu has had just three cases of COVID-19 (all contained cases were discovered during the mandatory 14 day quarantine upon arrival).
Several rounds of easing restrictions for permanent residents and citizens have happened, but so far the government has not given any indication as to when borders might open for foreigners. We hope that after the vaccine is more readily available borders will open.
ILP volunteers aren’t required to have a visa for their semester in Vanuatu, so we’re not waiting on visa offices or embassies. We’re just waiting on lifted border restrictions, resumed flights, and airports to open for tourists.
Currently, there aren’t any flights (except for repatriation flights) to Vanuatu, but recently we’ve gotten some news about surrounding airports that’s hopeful.
Even pre-Covid, there were no direct flights from the US to Vanuatu. So whenever borders open for Vanuatu, borders for one of five nearby countries (at least) would also need to be open for transit from the United States. Currently, New Zealand is open to transit and Australia is aiming to be open in 2022.
Additionally, Vanuatu has proposed a travel bubble with New Caledonia. The bubble will allow students and those traveling for business to visit each other’s countries (travel is restricted just to Efate for now). While borders remain closed for other travelers, seeing flights between countries for any other reasons besides repatriation at all is an optimistic step in the right direction.
There hasn’t been any recent news about the travel bubble or when it is supposed to be starting, but this section will be updated when there are updates.
Per 100,000 people, Vanuatu has 0.0 cases. In mid-November, a returning Vanuatu national traveler tested positive while quarantining, and remained in isolation until recovery. In March, two expatriates returning to Vanuatu tested positive while in quarantine.
Schools have been running as normal with no restrictions.
Locals are continuing on with life as usual. They’re going to the grocery store, visiting with neighbors, and hanging out at the beach without restrictions (they don’t even need to wear masks). The contained cases of the virus discovered while the individuals were quarantining, meaning things can go on as normal. The country isn’t shutting down schools or workplaces, or imposing restrictions on gatherings. Handwashing stations throughout the country will still be in place.
Out & About
All the fun things to do in Vanuatu are operating as usual! Cruise ships and tourists aren’t allowed in right now so they’re seeing a dip in customers, but locals are able to enjoy all the island has to offer in the meantime.
Vanuatu is in a really unique position. Shutting down borders has proved extremely effective (the island has had just three cases of the virus, which were discovered during the quarantine period and was 100% contained). Buses and other forms of transport have functioned as normal.
We’re unsure how things will change once the nation decides to invite travelers back in, but measures taken by other countries (masks, temperature checks, social distancing, limited events, etc) are likely to be implemented in Vanuatu, but nothing’s official yet.
Travel outside of the country has been an option in the past, but we’re not sure what that will look like when Vanuatu opens up. Right now, travel outside of Vanuatu isn’t an option for anyone with airports closed and no flights in or out of the country.
Luckily, there is so much to do on this island. Efate is small, but jam-packed with so many things to do. Past volunteers have enjoyed stay-cations at the many resorts around the island and have kept plenty busy.
Okay, now what? Should I still apply for Vanuatu?
If you’re thinking “that’s all really good to know, but what does that mean for me?” we have some good news to share: time is still totally on your side.
We’ve seen policies change without notice that have made the difference between us thinking we’ll need to wait longer and helping us determine that it’s a location is we’re pretty optimistic about. Sometimes that has happened in the span of just a couple of weeks or even in a single day. A lot could change for Fall 2021 volunteers.
So we say start your application now so that you’re ready when the time comes. We are going to need volunteers who are ready to go right when things change for the better, which is why we think it’s a good idea to have your application in (even if things potentially look uncertain right now). Time really is on your side.
We’re also here for all of your questions. We’d love to talk about deferring to a later semester if things still need more time or finding a country right now that’ll be a good fit for you. You can bet that once things open up, you’ll be the first to know!