Woman suspected of coronavirus identified

The identity of a young woman, who has become Samoa’s first suspected case of coronavirus, has been revealed as 21-year-old, Togitasi Faimasasa, from the village of Letogo, an investigation by the Samoa Observer found.

The former student of Maluafou College returned to Samoa from Auckland, New Zealand on Wednesday 11 March 2020 to celebrate her 21st birthday in Samoa.

Family members and friends confirmed to the Samoa Observer that the birthday was held at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel last Saturday.

The Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) confirmed that a woman was admitted to the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital (T.T.M.) on Wednesday morning, after experiencing “flu-like symptoms for two days.”

The authorities declined to divulge details about the patient and whom she had been in contact with prior to being admitted.

Today, Ms. Faimasasa is being isolated at the Moto’otua Hospital under the care of her mother.

The Samoa Observer spoke with one of her sisters on Thursday who said she is only experiencing flu-like symptoms and a fever. She said Ms. Faimasasa is doing very well.

The revelation of Ms. Faimasasa’s identity sparked the early closure of Maluafou College on Thursday, when teachers found out that students from the school, including a relative of Ms. Faimasasa, who had spent time with her when she became unwell, was at the birthday party on Saturday.

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi confirmed that the young woman is from Letogo and had come to Samoa from New Zealand to celebrate her 21st birthday with family.

On Wednesday, the M.O.H. confirmed Samoa’s first suspected case of coronavirus, saying the woman flew in from New Zealand for a “family occasion.”

But this fact was oblivious to the family of the said suspected case of coronavirus.

Contacted for a comment, Ms. Faimasasa told the Samoa Observer that they were not notified that she was a suspected case of coronavirus in Samoa.

Ms. Faimasasa said they were surprised to see the update from the M.O.H. on Wednesday evening notifying the public of the suspected case.

The family only found out that the first suspected case mentioned was her when reports had made references to her.

Her mother told this newspaper that they are yet to file a complaint with the Police as they are of the view that the reports are untrue.

She fears that the reports and the direct reference to her daughter would have repercussions on their family.

“When we asked the doctor who was looking after my daughter, she was very surprised. And the doctors have been checking her constantly and they say she should already be discharged,” she added. 

“I am filing a complaint with the Police over defamation because our village name has been dragged through the mud and my children have been chased away from school.

“My children have been made to stay home from school due to contact with my daughter here. But the doctors are very shocked about this, saying they have not confirmed anything.”

Ms. Faimasasa’s mother further said that they are now worried about the impact it will have on their family in Letogo.

“My uncle has told me that the mayor has approached our family. All they did was a swab to take with them. They did not tell us anything about my child being suspected,” she said.

“And the way the Prime Minister was talking today it made it seem like my daughter had been confirmed and mentioned the name of our village.”

Ms. Faimasasa said she had gone to Apia town a lot for her birthday preparations but had started feeling sick on Monday.

She explained that she had only felt a sore throat and started coughing on Tuesday, followed by fever when she woke up on Wednesday.

In her interview with this newspaper on Thursday, she said she was doing fine and has recovered from her flu-like symptoms. 

"I am not doing anything at the hospital, I am just walking around."

According to the M.O.H. update, Ms. Faimasasa is currently receiving care at the T.T.M. Hospital and is being cared for separately from other patients.

Her family is able to visit her in the room she is being cared for separately from other patients, the Samoa Observer was told.

This story was updated at 9.29pm and 10.57pm local time to include comments from the patient and the family.

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