Coronavirus rumours baseless: Ministry

The Ministry of Health has flatly denied rumours circulating around Samoa and on social media that a patient is suspected of being the first person in the country to contract the coronavirus.

In a statement issued on Saturday afternoon, a Ministry of Health spokeswoman wrote to dispel reports on social media and said it would investigate the origins of the claims. 

“These statements are not supported by any evidence, and all ongoing investigations have found no Coronavirus cases (no suspected and no confirmed),” the statement said.

“The result of these false social media statements is that a family has been wrongly accused of having the virus and have had their privacy violated while under the care of the hospital.

“The Ministry of Health is disappointed at the stigmatization of this family by the public and will investigate those responsible for these false statements to protect patients.”

Early on Saturday morning the Samoa Observer was advised that word had begun sweeping the national hospital that a patient was in quarantine in the Maternity Ward after contracting the virus.

The Government spokeswoman said that the public should rely on official Ministry of Health media channels exclusively for information about the virus.

The Ministry of Health said that further official updates on the status of coronavirus in the nation would be provided on Monday, Wednesday and Friday this coming week.

The rumours follow the first confirmed case of the coronavirus in the Pacific islands, in Tahiti. Maina Sage, the French Polynesian representative to the French National Assembly, was diagnosed with the illness after returning from an overseas trip on 7 March. 

On Saturday local time American President Donald Trump held a summit with business leaders to discuss that country’s response to the growing epidemic, at which he declared a state of national emergency.

According to figures provided by the Government, Australia has reported 156 confirmed cases and three deaths; New Zealand five confirmed cases and Hawaii has reported two presumptive positive cases.

Previously suspected cases in Tonga, Fiji, the Marshall Islands and Palau have all tested negative, the Ministry said.

Fiji this week opened four facilities which its Government said were capable of conducting tests for the virus.

The Ministry said it would continue its preventative measures and encouraged the public to do the same by practising regular hand washing, avoiding large public gatherings, avoiding contact with people with flu-like symptoms and seeing their doctor if they feel ill.

A number of border restrictions on incoming passengers and planes have been imposed in a bid to beef up the Government’s attempts to prevent the virus from reaching its shores.

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