Status report from the Administrator on the 23rd April 2021.

Tristan Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: April 2021

Tristan da Cunha CrestStatus update from Administrator Steve Townsend on the 23rd April 2021

This bulletin updates the status report we published in July 2020.

We are delighted to announce that our supplies of COVID-19 vaccines have arrived at Tristan da Cunha. We have received the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, as the other options have to be transported at ultra-low temperatures which would not have been possible for our supply chain. Even with the AZ vaccine, the logistical difficulties in transporting them here were huge, as they had to be kept in closely monitored fridges all through the voyage. If the temperature went above 8 degrees the vaccines would have been rendered useless. In the end, the vaccines were flown to the Falkland Islands, and brought here by the Royal Navy. We are very grateful to all those involved in planning the logistics, and especially to the officers and crew of HMS Forth for delivering them on the final leg. We had our hearts in our mouths during the off-loading the vaccines from HMS Forth into the island's RIBs. It would have been a minor disaster if the operation had failed at the last moment, but they were brought safely ashore, and put in the hospital fridge. We have also received lateral flow test kits, so we will be able to test people for COVID. However, as we still do not have an Intensive Care Unit we are vulnerable should the infection reach the island.

Tristan's medical team
The medical team, who will be administering the vaccine.
The medical team will start vaccinations in the week beginning 26 April. We hope that the large majority of the island's adult population will have the vaccination, and that we will be able to look forward to a post-COVID world. We would not be in a position to review our quarantine and isolation regulations until the community here had received both vaccines, which would be in about 8 weeks. However we are still very dependent on the situation in South Africa, so we will continue to take sensible precautions, based on the medical advice at the time, and bearing in mind the infection and vaccination situation in South Africa.

Following the sinking of the MFV Geo Searcher we are continuing with only the MFV Edinburgh for the moment. She has been bringing in supplies, and is currently finishing off the fishing round the outer islands for the season. She will then continue with the cargo and passenger voyages, and we are currently looking at one sailing leaving Cape Town in late May 2021, and the next at the beginning of July. We also hope to see the SA Agulhas II in early October.

We have continued to be able to send people to Cape Town for medical treatment. This has been an important life-line for us. We have also been able to bring in a new doctor and nurse, an occupational therapist and a couple of marine biologists over the past few months. These have all been from South Africa, as direct travel between the UK and South Africa has been disrupted, and all had to undergo full testing and isolation protocols.

The RSPB team based on Gough have been carefully following all the COVID protocols. When the SV Urchin arrived at Tristan to pick up the Tristanians who were joining the project, they had already gone through the full quarantine period before setting off from South Africa.

We are not yet in a position to welcome visitors given the limited capacity on the vessels, nor are we able to welcome passing yachts.

The good news is that we have a number of provisional bookings for cruise liners for early 2022. This demonstrates the greater optimism in the global cruise industry, and we will hopefully be able to welcome these visitors once again to the islands.

It is much too early to say that we are returning to normal. But every step forward is a positive sign.

Stephen Townsend
Tristan da Cunha