Government to shutdown
In an effort to bring an end to the measles epidemic that has been spreading through Samoa for more than a month, the Government will shut down for two days this week, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi announced on Monday.
Tuilaepa announced that public and Government services, excepting the Samoa Water Authority and the Electric Power Corporation, would be closed effective this Thursday and Friday. Government workers will be enlisted to help carry out the nation's mass vaccination campaign.
"The public service and government services will be closed for Thursday to Friday this week in order to allow public servants to assist with the mass vaccinations campaign throughout the country, expect the [Samoa Water Authority] and [the Electric Power Corporation]," Tuilaepa said.
"A full programme will be published for the public; the answer to our prayers is with us through the services of the doctors and nurses and all health personnel."
In a speech that followed an official update on Monday that showed the national death toll had risen to 53, or five more since Sunday, the Prime Minister continued to express sympathy for a crisis that has claimed the lives of 48 children under four years of age:
"I extend to all the families that have lost loved ones and the children of Samoa out condolences and sympathies".
Tuilaepa, who last week called for the arrest of the since closed down alternative Kangen water healer, Fritz Filisi Alai’asa, emphasised the importance of parents seeking care from medical professionals when their children displayed symptoms.
"Let us not be distracted by the alternative cures. Measles is not new to Samoa and rarely claimed lives. We need to understand the following issues," he said.
"Let us work together to convince those that do not believe that vaccinations are the only answer to the epidemic.
"First vaccinations is the only cure; if affected cases are presented early for treatment full recovery should be expected, and thirdly no traditional healers and kengen water preparations can cure measles."
Tuilaepa said that immunisation will become mandatory under the law for all ages. The Government had earlier announced previous age restrictions on vaccines would be lifted and they would now be available to anyone under 60.
"The Government wants to emphasise the importance of prevention and protection of the children; it is critical that we stand together on ways to address the crisis," he said.
"The Government needs the support of all the village councils, faith based organization the church leaders, village mayors, Government women representatives that have engaged in outreach [programmes]."
Lastly the Prime Minister thanked foreign allies for providing medical and logistical support since the epidemic was first declared on October 15.
"We have received medical teams, from, Australia, New Zealand, and the New Zealand Red Cross, France, United Kingdom the Pacific Medical Association, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, China, Norway, Japan, and the U.K. and U.S.A. and more on their way, he said".
"[These] human resources, vaccines, medical supplies and equipment and technical expertise and financial contributions [have assisted] our tired and willing local health workers."
Cases of measles have risen to 3,728 on Monday, another 198 of which were recorded in the last day, and hospitalisations have risen to 1,129.