N.Z. rejects measles blame

The Government of New Zealand has rejected claims that it is responsible for bringing measles to Samoa and the epidemic that has now claimed 72 lives, the country's Deputy Prime Minister,Vaovasamanaia Winston Peters, said on Friday. 

In a joint press conference with the Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, N.Z. Deputy Prime Minister, Vaovasamanaia, who is also New Zealand's Foreign Minister, dismissed the allegations. 

“We are far too soon in this process to be able to support such statement[s being] made, that is something [that will] take serious forensic work and may be impossible to answer,” Vaovasa told the media. 

The Deputy Prime Minister who led a delegation from New Zealand that arrived yesterday, pointed out there are 10 million measles cases in the world. 

“The source of what happened here is not known at this point," he said. 

Prime Minister Tuilaepa had previously blamed a passenger from New Zealand for bringing measles to Samoa. 

But during the press conference, Vaovasa maintained that the allegation needs proof and it would be wrong for New Zealand to admit to it without proper investigation. 

He added evidence is needed “before we rush to judgment and make a mistake”. 

“To just stand here and brush it aside it would be the wrong thing to do,” he said. 

“But to admit it would be the wrong thing to do because we just don’t have the evidence. 

“Even if we do find out the evidence, how will it help these families now? 

“Our job now is, we did all we could do when we heard about it.” 

At the press conference, Tuilaepa said every country follows the same process in terms of filing in the immigration declaration form to declare if you are sick or not. 

“That is the kind threat that is faced by any country because we depend on the honesty of those who reveal that they are infected,” said the Prime Minister. 

The New Zealand delegation led by Vaovasa and the Minister for Pacific Peoples, Su’a William Sio, the group visited the Leulumoega District hospital where the N.Z. medical volunteers are stationed. 

He said the delegation in Samoa came to have a look at what is going on and what to expect of the medical staff and all those helping out. 

On top of that, the visit wanted to grasp whether Samoa needed any further resources. 

Following the visit, Vaovasa said he will report back to his Cabinet colleagues that the assistance provided to Samoa “is seriously well spent”.

Samoa and N.Z. has a Treaty of Friendship and Vaovasa said “when a friend in this context is in need our country tend on stepping up and help out”. 

He also conveyed his condolences to the affected families who lost loved ones to the tragic measles epidemic. 

“We stand ready on every occasion to provide the resources and help that required to help out,” he said. 

“There are a lot of dimensions to tragedies like this, the most important one is to focus on mediation, repair, cure and solutions rather than blame which is the propensity of something to do.”  

Prime Minister Tuilaepa extended his gratitude towards Vaovasa and the government of New Zealand for their response to assist Samoa in the vaccination campaign and offering help where it was needed. 

Vaovasa and his team visited the Tupua Tamasese Meaole hospital at Moto’otua on Friday before they depart on Saturday. 

New Zealand has sent multiple teams of medical professionals to Samoa since  November and has funded 100,000 measles and rubella (MR) vaccines provided by UNICEF, and 15,000 measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines from New Zealand. 

Other support includes providing an oxygen production machine, vaccination fridges, face masks, gowns, hand sanitiser and stretcher beds.

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