The government has moved to “set the record straight” in relation to reports about the Zika virus in Samoa.
During a press conference fronted by the Caretaker Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and the Minister of Health, Tuitama Dr. Leao Tuitama, tourists were encouraged to visit Samoa without the need to be alarmed about Zika.
Speaking as the Minister of Tourism, Tuilaepa said reports connecting Samoa with the Zika virus have had a noticeable impact on tourism.
“That’s why the government has decided to set the record straight for everyone, including people overseas, that the Zika Virus is not spreading in Samoa,” Tuilaepa said.
The Prime Minister and the Minister of Health were accompanied at the press conference by senior officials from the Ministry of Health.
Tuilaepa said the fear-mongering tactics being used to scare people away from Samoa must stop.
“Yes we did have three positive cases of Zika Virus, but that was last year,” he admitted.
“There was one confirmed case in September and two in October and that was it. There are no recent cases.” The Minister of Tourism said the foreign media have made it seem like there is an outbreak of Zika in Samoa.
“These reports are causing problems for tourists,” he said.
“There must be someone who behind these reports to come out so that tourists will not choose Samoa as a place to come and visit and spend their holidays.”
Tuilaepa said these reports are having a major impact on local businesses, especially the ones relying on tourism dollars.
Minister Tuitama agrees.
“Last year in October was the last month that we found a positive case for the Zika Virus,” he said.
“Now it’s February and we still haven’t had any more confirmed cases of Zika.
“[And] yet we hear reports from overseas where they mention Samoa as the only country in the Pacific with Zika.
“Every time I listen to reports, they are not mentioning other Pacific countries that have confirmed cases.
“They are only mentioning Samoa’s name when the last case was in October last year.”
Tuitama speculated that there could be a “motive behind these reports.”
“What those motives are we don’t know. All we know is that these reports are scaring the people who want to visit our country.”
He added: “These reports are wrong and that is something the government is trying to do to ensure that our country is free from all of these accusations.”
Prime Minister Tuilaepa also assured that the government is doing is everything in its power to ensure such viruses are stopped from entering Samoa.