Now is not the time to panic, it’s time to step up our preparations
Being proactive and getting ready for the worst-case scenario is the best way to respond in the face of fear and hysteria created by the global spread of the deadly coronavirus. That much we know.
There is no doubt that each and every one of us in Samoa would love nothing more than for the preventative measures being taken by the Government, and all the relevant authorities, to succeed by keeping the virus at bay.
But let’s be realistic; there is no guarantee whatsoever that Samoa is immune. The story on the front page of the newspaper you are reading about Samoa’s first suspected case is a classic example. But then it was inevitable, wasn’t it?
The facts speak for themselves. COVID-19 is already in the Pacific with the rising number of cases reported in Tahiti and Guam. Just over three hours away in New Zealand, there is a new case every day. It’s the same in Australia, five hours away. Flights to Samoa from these countries, although reduced in frequency and capacity, are continuing which means that the risk of someone bringing the virus to Samoa was very real and extremely high.
All it will take is just one person to bring the virus. This fear was compounded last night when the news came through that the Ministry of Health has investigated what appears to be Samoa’s first suspected case. The patient is someone from Auckland who arrived last week.
During the weekend, contrary to the Ministry of Health flatly denying reports that someone was suspected to have shown symptoms of the virus at the hospital, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi perhaps unwittingly confirmed what we all feared when he revealed that two more tests were done.
“There was a palagi that was suspected,” Tuilaepa said. “Two people were tested and the results are that these are not symptoms of the disease.”
Whether the symptoms were of the coronavirus or not, the idea that the Ministry of Health had carried out tests is quite chilling. It clearly highlights the risk factor and the fact that anyone could bring the virus to Samoa.
The message today should be quite simple. Prevention is better than cure. It’s better to be safe than sorry. And since the risk factor remains high with flights from COVID-19-infected countries continuing, it is not a question of whether the virus will arrive, it is rather when and how soon. We already have a suspected case and it’s not going to be the only. While results will take a few days to come back, it’s not beyond the realm of possibilities that more suspected cases will emerge.
Which is why we commend members of the community like Tautalatasi Dr. John Adams who has taken the initiative to prepare his private practice at Vaitele for the worst-case scenario. Having worked on the frontlines of the measles epidemic last year, Tautalatasi said he does not want to see the same mistakes happen in Samoa again.
So how has he prepared his Clinic? He has two main responses in mind. First, they will screen people outside the clinic, and reserve the actual site for non-infectious patients, who are more vulnerable to a severe infection of COVID-19. That will either take place from the window of a suspected case’s car, or under the shade of an open-air clinic under a tent established in the clinic carpark.
“This is one way we can at least delay the spread, instead of people coughing and feverish sitting in here with the healthy people. At the same time, people need access to healthcare sooner rather than later.”
He said anyone who rings the alarm bells for all three symptoms (a cough, fever and a recent trip overseas or contact with someone who has taken one) would be referred to the Ministry of Health immediately
“If for some reason the virus gets to Samoa, I will move from prevention to containment. Containment is making sure the virus doesn’t spread, so we want to limit transmission,” Tautalatasi said. That means identifying a suspected case of the virus also known as C.O.V.I.D.-19, testing them for the virus and finding everyone they were in contact with to put them in self-isolation while monitoring their symptoms at home.
Tautalatasi urged that Samoa needs to get ready.
“As individuals in Samoa, we are all in this together, from the oldest to the five year old kid. Simple things: hand washing, don’t touch your face, clean your hard surfaces, your doorknobs, if you are sick, stay at home.”
We couldn’t agree more with Tautalatasi.
The Government needs to take a leaf out of his book, and other people like Tautalatasi who have shown similar initiative, and do whatever is necessary to prepare this nation for what is coming.
They need to prepare the hospitals, health workers, public service, schools, churches, villages, individual families and their homes. No one is safe. If and when the virus arrives, it will be too late to do something then.
Now is the time to prepare and do whatever is needed.
Stay informed, stay safe and pray, God bless!