University launches virus evacuation plan

The National University of Samoa (N.U.S.) has launched an evacuation plan as part of its preparedness for the onset of a coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

N.U.S. Vice Chancellor and President, Aiono Professor Alec Ekeroma, officially launched the evacuation plan on Monday in the presence of students, staff and representatives of the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) and Samoa’s Ministry of Health (M.O.H.).

"I declare the launching of the N.U.S evacuation plan open. The pandemic planning and prevention response to the coronavirus that is currently in Australia and New Zealand," he said. 

"Colleges and universities will be essential partners in protecting the public's health and safety when a pandemic occurs. At the onset of a pandemic, public health officials will determine the severity of the pandemic and recommend actions to protect the community's health.”

A pandemic is a global outbreak of a disease that occurs when a new virus appears in the human population, which causes serious illness and then spreads easily from person to person worldwide.

The university’s evacuation plan had five steps to enable preparedness and an effective response to the virus, says Aiono.

The first step is to ask unwell staff and students to remain at home for 14 days or until they are fit to come back to work and school. Next is the household where those who are ill will be asked to voluntarily remain at home for 14 days.

The third step involves the MOH which will direct the closure of the university campus for 12 weeks with students switching to online learning.

“Third is that with the direction of the Ministry of Health, I will or a NUS Emergency planning team member will close down the campus for twelve weeks while classes would be offered through the Moodle platform," he said.

The fourth step is the “social distancing” of the campus community, which Aiono said could lead to the cancellation of public gatherings.

"Fourth is recommending the social distancing of all campus community members, which may include cancellation of public gatherings, changing of work environments and schedules to decrease social density and preserve a healthy workplace. 

“And lastly, all such community based strategies should be used in combination with individual infection control measures, such as hand-washing and cough etiquette, mask and other appropriate preventative actions.”

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