The need for a safe Christmas season

We certainly are entering one of the most unusual Christmas seasons in recent memories. 

Just two weeks from today, with the exception of Cyclone Evan, it is difficult to pinpoint another time in Samoa’s modern history where the lead up to the festive season has been quite so depressed. 

The evidence is all around us. The usual universal displays of Christmas cheer and festive symbols and songs are more than a little bit muted. 

We can understand why. Besides not befitting the nation’s sombre mood, those who are most designed to delight in these displays, children, are being kept at home. 

Despite the reported success of last week’s two-day shutdown and the Government claiming to have vaccinated 91 per cent of its “eligible” population there is no firm sign this crisis is over yet.

There will be much read into the statistic in today’s edition that the number of new infected cases has dropped to a low of perhaps several weeks (Daily Government statistics have only recently been provided so we’ve estimated - as we always do - conservatively).

Like so many issues of such complexity, ask a different expert and you’ll receive a different answer.

This is just one data point in a crisis that has been lingering on for, as the Samoa Observer’s reporting has revealed, for up to six weeks longer than when it was first declared by the Health Ministry. 

The head of the Oceania University of Medicine, Toleafoa  Dr. Viali Lameko, warned yesterday now is not the time to relax our efforts our minds.

New Zealand Doctor Alan Wright, one of many foreign health professionals to whom we owe immeasurable gratitude for helping us in our hour of greatest need said he was encouraged by the declining number of people presenting with new infections. (There were just 112 people infected Monday, down from up to 200 plus a day just at the end of last month). 

But Dr. Wright warned that those young sick children already ravaged by measles are “sitting targets” for complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis. A British team of specialist reinforcements will arrive next week to focus on curing precisely these patients, those who might succumb to measles itself but one of its unfortunate knock on effects. One curse could very well yield to another. 

Other statistical modelling from University Auckland statisticians suggests even accounting for the impact of the mass vaccination the virus may not yet “peak” until the week of Christmas

Whatever the case it seems unavoidable that Christmas this year is destined to have an unusual feel this year. 

The Government has made no suggestion the State of Emergency will be lifted after the 30 day period from which it was declared on November 15. 

That could mean a very different kind of Christmas for many families; with fewer communal gatherings; a greater focus on the family; and a greater sense of introspection and sadness who for those who are missing.

All we can do in this situation is urge you to follow the advice of the Police Commissioner, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil, who has in today’s edition warned Samoans to take extra care over the Christmas and New Year’s period. 

Arrests, careless driving, drunk driving and crimes all around spiked around this period last year.

If the tragic end to this year has not provided an example of why such recklessness has no place in Samoan society it is not clear what possibly could.

Please let's not compound these recent tragedies by actions of our own making. 

Your gatherings may be smaller; the mood may be more subdued than usual, but we urge you to rejoice in those you have around you; remember how lucky that makes you; and to act accordingly. 

Have a happy Wednesday, Samoa.

And God bless this nation. 

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