"Morally wrong," decision to deny Samoans entry criticised

The Government's decision to deny entry for Samoan citizens at the Faleolo Airport, sending them back to Fiji to be quarantined has been heavily criticised in an editorial by the Fiji Sun, one of that country's daily newspapers.

The editorial called Samoa's decision to send eight of its citizens to Nadi for quarantine “morally wrong” and an abdication of its responsibility to its citizens.

This week, Samoa returned five patients and three guardians from Samoa, who had travelled to India for medical treatment, to Nadi, their last port after transiting home through Singapore. The day before their flight, Singapore had been added to a list of countries Samoa would not accept travellers from.

The measures are precautions against the spread of the new coronavirus originating in China, which has infected over 40,000 people and killed over 1000 in China and one in the Philippines. 

But should the travellers have been deported to Nadi, or quarantined for 14 days in Faleolo Health Centre, established as a quarantine facility at the end of January?

Editor of the Fiji Sun, Nemani Delaibatiki, said returning passengers to Nadi is “unacceptable and [is] tantamount to dereliction of duty by a sovereign state. 

“Why could it not set up its own quarantine facilities to check its citizens and others whether they are carrying the virus? Instead, it conveniently shifts the responsibility to Fiji […] something seems terribly wrong when Samoa turns away its own citizens,” the editorial states.

It goes on to say Samoa would turn Nadi into a quarantine centre, which is unfair.

“There is not much we can do about it here [other] than face the challenge of putting through virus suspects through the stringent tests.”

Referring to the tragic measles epidemic that claimed at least 83 lives, Ms. Delaibatiki said the “hard-line approach” shows the Government swinging from one extreme to the other, from “poorly” managing the epidemic to now desperately avoiding an outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-2019).

“While it is its sovereign right to impose measures its sees essential for the protection of its people, what about the eight who are at a Nadi hotel?” the editorial continues.

“Aren’t they entitled as citizens to the same rights to be protected on their home soil instead of being quarantined in a foreign land?”

The Government of Samoa said it contacted Apollo and Fortis Hospitals in Nadi to assist the quarantine process.

Faleolo Health Centre currently has five people in quarantine, who had travelled to Samoa via China. Two are sailors, two are a married couple and one is a young woman who had flown through India, Singapore and Asia.

Samoa Observer understands that there are just two beds in one room left available at the health centre.

Asked whether that is the reason the eight nationals were sent to Fiji, Government spokesperson Nanai Laveitiga Tuiletufuga said the Fiji Sun is entitled to their own opinions.

"But paramount to the Goveremnt of Samoa is the national health security of all its residents," he responded to an email from the Samoa Observer.

"Until otherwise instructed by Cabinet, the Travel Advisory remains in effect."

The editorial in question is published in full on page 13 of the Samoa Observer's print edition.

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