Disaster Advisory Committee asks Cabinet to consider closing borders

The Disaster Advisory Committee (D.A.C.) will make a recommendation to Cabinet to close Samoa’s borders as a preventative measure against the coronavirus. 

The proposal was confirmed by the Chairman of D.A.C., Ulu Bismarck Crawley, who is also the Chairman of the National Emergency Operation Center in response questions from the Samoa Observer. It follows confirmation of the first suspected case of coronavirus in the country. 

“We have issues over the capacity of testing," he said. "We are relying overseas [for the testing] and we are doing the 14 days quarantine and it reflects the kind of capacity we have and the whole idea is that prevention is better than cure.” 

Ulu, who is also the Chief Executive Officer for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said they will propose for Cabinet to endorse the closing of Samoa's borders.

“That is the next move and we will go for that," he said. 

"As I said prevention is better and also mindful this is the only way we are sending and receiving our tests for the coronavirus. This is a developing issue as it affects the economy; health; the country as a whole,” said Ulu. 

On Wednesday the Ministry of Health confirmed Samoa’s first suspected case of coronavirus.

“As of this morning, the Ministry of Health is investigating one patient for Coronavirus (COVID-19),” the statement reads.

“The patient was admitted this morning Wednesday 18 March 2020, to the TTM Hospital Motootua after experiencing flu-like symptoms for two days.”

Regarding gatherings, masses, sporting events Chairman of D.A.C. reminds that prevention is better. 

“We will issue out a formal note to ban formal gatherings on the ex-amount of people and the whole idea is to prevent.” 

He said the issue at hand is a matter of life and death. 

“While it’s understandable the graduation is the end result of hard work throughout the years, but there should be a better way to do it. Health comes first,” he reiterated. 

This week the D.A.C. sent out a draft of its preparedness and response plan on the coronavirus, for agriculture there is a need to monitor food availability and accessibility in local markets. Encourage subsistence farming as alternative to potential shortage in imported food.  

Also food security measures to promote home gardening and small scale livestock production and restrict arrival of international fishing vessel. 

For communication, the D.A.C. proposes to maintain the ICT infrastructure and utilized for emergencies and implement cloud bases solution that are suitable for remote operations. The Community should cease all public events and church gatherings. There should be alternative education programs, says D.A.C. 

The E.P.C. to ration power in case of fuel shortage and to prioritize critical services and strengthen the use of renewable energy.

Regarding finances matters in the country, the M.O.F. to facilitate and support procurement of M.O.H. and prepare budget for the N.E.O.C. activation at the issuance of confirmation of coronavirus; insurance and the Central Bank to monitor the local economy. 

“The C.B.S. to encourage exemptions for loan repayments due to potential work place shutdown and reduce fees for EFTPOS usage and consumer e-transactions.” 

The D.A.C. also calls to restrict visitation to correctional facility; limit court hearings and restrict court proceedings and restrict entry in Samoa at the airports in Auckland and Australia. 

They also call to cancel all international meetings to be hosted by the Samoa Government. 

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