Last updated July 31, 2020
Today’s Status, Looking Towards Fall 2020 — Yellow
Vanuatu has done an impressive job protecting their little islands from the pandemic. They took quick action to close their borders, and to this date, are reporting zero cases (confirmed by our local contacts in the healthcare system). Their borders are still closed though, and the state of emergency was extended through December 2020, so while everything else is looking good on the island as far as daily life goes, getting there is the big obstacle right now.
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.
Right now, the country is completely sealed off, with no news of when they will open back up again. On March 23, at the first news of the virus, this tropical paradise closed their airports and borders. The tactic was extreme but successful — Vanuatu doesn’t have (and never has had) a case of COVID-19.
Nearby Fiji has been talking about opening up a “bula-bubble”, a travel bubble encompassing New Zealand and Australia. If initial attempts are successful, Fiji is considering including other islands like Vanuatu. However, nothing is official and right now we’re waiting to hear from Vanuatu when they plan on inviting tourists back to their country.
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.
Currently, there aren’t any flights to Vanuatu, but recently we’ve gotten some news about surrounding airports that’s hopeful.
Nearby Australia briefly opened flights and transit, then curtailed that re-opening after an outbreak in Melbourne. Transit through Australia is still possible though, which is a good sign. Flights to Vanuatu always require flying through another country (like Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand) so seeing transit allowed in nearby airports is a step in the right direction.
Vanuatu hasn’t had a single case of COVID-19 and due to extreme travel restrictions and closures, it’s looking like that statistic will stay. Per 100,000 people, Vanuatu has 0.0 cases.
Because there have been zero cases on the islands, schools have been running as normal since May, with no restrictions.
With zero cases of the virus, 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).
Out & About
Again, with zero cases of the virus, 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. Because it doesn’t have any cases or even suspected cases, they haven’t needed to do much more restrict all international travel and establish a virus task force if a case crops up. 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.
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. We don’t think you’ll run out of things to do while here!
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 a Fall 2020 semester in that location is something we’re pretty optimistic about. Sometimes that has happened in the span of just a couple of weeks or even in a single day. Departures for Fall 2020 are still weeks off and a lot could be decided before departing … and even more could change for Spring 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!