Comparison of strategies for daily surveillance of international travellers quarantined in Vanuatu, October–December 2020

Using SMS for COVID-19 quarantine monitoring in Vanuatu

Authors

  • Caroline van Gemert Vanuatu Health Program, Port Vila, Vanuatu; Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Wendy Williams Vanuatu Ministry of Health, Port Vila, Vanuatu
  • Joanne Mariasua Vanuatu Ministry of Health, Port Vila, Vanuatu
  • Debbie Fred Vanuatu Health Program, Port Vila, Vanuatu
  • Matthew Cornish Private physician, Port Vila, Vanuatu
  • Len Tarivonda Vanuatu Ministry of Health, Port Vila, Vanuatu
  • Posikai Samuel Tapo Vanuatu Ministry of Health, Port Vila, Vanuatu
  • Vincent Atua Vila Central Hospital, Port Vila, Vanuatu
  • Obed Manwo Shefa Provincial Health Service, Port Vila, Vanuatu
  • Philippe Guyant World Health Organization Country Liaison Office in Vanuatu, Port Vila, Vanuatu
  • Lola Iavro Vanuatu Ministry of Health, Port Vila, Vanuatu
  • Geoff Clark Vanuatu Health Program, Port Vila, Vanuatu

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.5365/wpsar.2022.13.2.918

Abstract

Objective: To prevent importation of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to Vanuatu, since March 2020, all travellers to the country have been required to complete a 14-day quarantine in a government-designated facility. A short message service (SMS, or “text message”) system was developed to collect information on symptoms of COVID-19 among travellers in quarantine. A trial within a cohort study was conducted among travellers arriving to Vanuatu by air from 27 October to 7 December 2020 to assess SMS acceptability, efficiency and utility and whether SMS-based health monitoring was as effective as in-person monitoring in identifying people with COVID-19 symptoms.

Methods: Control group participants received standard monitoring (daily in-person visits) and participants in the intervention group received a daily SMS text requesting a response coded for symptom development. Differences between the two groups were determined using chi-squared tests.

Results: Of the 495 eligible travellers, 423 participated; 170 were allocated to the control group and 253 to the intervention group. At least one return SMS text was received from 50% (107/212) of participants who were confirmed to have received an SMS text. Less than 2% (4/253) of the intervention group and 0% of the control group reported symptoms.

Discussion: The SMS intervention had a high level of acceptability. SMS is a useful tool to monitor symptom development among people in quarantine and for broader public health programmes that require follow up.

Author Biography

Caroline van Gemert, Vanuatu Health Program, Port Vila, Vanuatu; Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

My expertise is in infectious disease epidemiology and surveillance, with a focus on emerging infectious diseases, sexually transmitted infections and viral hepatitis in Australia and in Pacific Island Countries and Territories. I am currently employed as an epidemiologist at the Vanuatu Health Program, funded by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. My role is to provide technical advice to the Vanuatu Ministry of Health related to COVID-19. I also hold a position as a NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow at the Melbourne School of Global and Population Health at the University of Melbourne, with research interests in the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, syphilis, and HBV in the Pacific region. Prior to this, I spent ten years at the Burnet Institute focusing on infectious diseases surveillance in Australia and in resource-poor setting with a focus on marginalised and hard-to-reach populations. I finished my PhD in 2018; my PhD explored opportunities to improve hepatitis B surveillance in Australia. I have been involved in several research projects in Asia and the Pacific, including in Laos, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Vanuatu. I have conducted several research consultancies for UN agencies, international NGOs and national and state level health departments.

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Published

01-07-2022

How to Cite

van Gemert, C., Williams, W., Mariasua, J., Fred, D., Cornish, M., Tarivonda, L., Tapo, P. S., Atua, V., Manwo, O., Guyant, P., Iavro, L., & Clark, G. (2022). Comparison of strategies for daily surveillance of international travellers quarantined in Vanuatu, October–December 2020: Using SMS for COVID-19 quarantine monitoring in Vanuatu. Western Pacific Surveillance and Response, 13(2), 7. https://doi.org/10.5365/wpsar.2022.13.2.918

Issue

Section

COVID-19: Original Research