Under state of emergency, we are all in this together
The threat of the deadly coronavirus pandemic has forced the Government’s hand.
As part of the national state of emergency approved by the Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Va’aletoa Sualauvi II pursuant to Article 106 of the Constitution, and announced by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi on Friday evening, Samoa is officially under laws designed with health, life and safety in mind.
Our small nation has joined millions of people around the world in countries that have locked down with people staying home and keeping a safe distance from each other to slow the spread of COVID-19.
In doing so, we have entered unchartered territory in a number of respects.
For the first time in the history of this nation, the Government has made the unprecedented decision to close Samoa’s borders to all international travellers. Apart from returning residents, no one else is allowed to enter Samoa during the next two weeks.
But perhaps more noteworthy for Samoa is the decision to cancel all public gatherings, including church services. As far as firsts go, this is a significant one for this country. Since the arrival of Christianity more than 180 years ago, this would be the first time most of the church buildings in Samoa will remain eerily empty on Sunday. It will be quite spectacular if it wasn’t so sad.
While states of emergencies are becoming quite normal in Samoa given our recent experience with the measles crisis, the coronavirus response is without a doubt another level of extreme. With the cancellation of churches all the way down to funerals, weddings and other gatherings that attract a crowd, the message from the Government is that it is not leaving anything to chance.
Which is reassuring. Prevention is better than cure. Although this nation continues to await the outcome of the one suspected case, preventative measures shouldn’t wait. The best possible outcome is that the test returns negative and Samoa’s preparations are over the top. Better safe than sorry.
The worst would be to have a positive outcome of the test and an underprepared country. If the virus lands here, it would be too late to mobilise an entire population then. Now is the time to do it.
This is why as difficult as the conditions being set under the national state of emergency are, everyone in this country must be reminded that they have a responsibility to understand and obey. Why? It is quite simple. This is about the state of the nation’s health, it is about a right to live and protect our families and loved ones.
There is a school of thought that perhaps Samoa is overreacting and that all these measures are over the top. We respectfully disagree.
While the global response has been swift and fast, this is a country that has just recovered from one of the most tragic health crises in its history. The wounds from the measles epidemic, which killed 83 innocent people and placed an enormous burden on this country’s social and economic prospects, are still very fresh.
It would be irresponsible for the leaders of this country to treat this like business as usual. On top of the fact that our health system is inadequate to deal with an outbreak should it happen, the world as we speak, is still looking for a cure. Looking at a number of our closest allies who came to Samoa’s rescue during the measles crisis, they already have their work cut out with COVID-19 wreaking havoc on their health systems. Getting help from them this time round might be challenging.
Which is why need to help ourselves first. This is why the decision by the Government to close Samoa’s borders and declare a state of emergency as a precautionary measure is the right thing to do.
There simply is no room for complacency. What we must also remember is that this is a developing situation and these measures could be elevated to another level where and when the need arises. We must be prepared.
In the meantime, what’s most important is for each and every one of us to remember that we are all in this together. We all have a role to play. In times of crisis, we need to rise up. We have a role to help the Government and all the relevant authorities overcome this challenge.
This is not just a test of our health; this is a test of our values and what matters.
In times like this of great chaos and panic, we find comfort and peace in our faith and in who we are. We need to remember what we stand for as a people, our culture and our beliefs. We are a family-oriented country, people who care for one another. We will not forsake our elders in times of need.
As a nation of Christians, we have been urged to fast and pray. This we should do with fervor, believing that we serve a mighty God who hears and answers our prayers.
While we will not be able to pray and worship in the normal settings of church buildings, we’d like to believe also that God is everywhere.
Today, let’s declare Psalms 91 verse 1 to 7 as our prayer:
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most
High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my
fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his
wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand
at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
Stay home, stay safe, look after one another and may God help us all!