Mother speaks up for daughter in quarantine

The mother of one of the more than hundred Air New Zealand passengers who arrived in Apia on Tuesday only to be led into compulsory quarantine, has voiced concerns about her daughter’s condition and treatment. 

Tori May, an American living in New Zealand is the mother of Soraya May, who was among the passengers ushered into St. Therese Samoa Retreat and Accommodation for compulsory quarantine on Tuesday. 

Ms. May told the Samoa Observer that her daughter has a chronic lung condition. She was transported by bus with other passengers upon arrival at the Faleolo Airport before eventually arriving at St. Therese’s, an environment Ms. May said was unhealthy. 

“Everyone [passengers] is coughing, sneezing, throwing up,” she said. Ms. May said that her daughter told a doctor that she has a condition but was not believed.

Attempts to seek contact the Ministry of Health about the allegations have been unsuccessful. 

Ms. May said that Soraya has a chronic lung condition and has 17 coils in her right lung and a calcium deposit in her lung, which caused her to have sickness and surgeries since her youth. 

The passengers arrived shortly after the passage by the Cabinet of state of emergency measures that shut down Samoa’s borders from Wednesday and required passengers arriving beforehand to enter isolation. 

Ms. May said that her daughter’s health is so precarious that contracting the flu could cause her to cough and suffer from bleeding.

“That’s why she cannot be around people; she will get sick. We don’t have to lie. I have all the documents,” she added.

“I called the American Embassy and this absolutely will go worldwide. She is innocent. 

“She [Soraya] didn’t want to be in quarantine but she shouldn’t be sleeping around [next to] 100 [other] people. This is not quarantine. 

Ms. May said her daughter had provoked the ire of officials at the quarantine facility by uploading a video of her living quarters. 

While in quarantine, Ms. May sent an email to Samoa’s most senior health officials.

In her email, addressed to the Director General of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, she described the testing experience of being in quarantine. 

“I definitely want to stay healthy as I am at a higher risk than [others] for infections,” she writes.

“I was exposed to others who may have been sick due to cold flu or possibly this virus because of the mismanagement of this latest Government order.

“In the vans and buses we were forced to squeeze in next to each other, no measures were taken for social distancing which is unacceptable if you are trying to contain a virus from spreading!”

She added that she and other passengers complied with advertised conditions requiring them to obtain a medical certificate to board the plane in New Zealand and enter into Samoa.

“I had no temperature and I thought I was all good to go home, after they screened us and our bags then customs told us we had to get on a bus,” she wrote. 

“We could not contact our families, they didn't tell us where we were going or why, they only said they were following the government's orders that they received earlier [Tuesday] today.”

Soraya, who, her mother says, is the joint-owner and operator of the Le Vasa resort, wrote that had she known she was to be isolated in quarantine with other passengers she would never have come to Samoa. 

Soraya said that she was very grateful for being granted her own room at first.

But later on around 1 am Tuesday night, she was told to share the room with other people.

“I told people that I was given a room because of my condition and it was not safe for me to share,” she wrote. 

“Several police came to open the door with a spare key, I was in bed, not dressed and I was told if I do not comply I will go to jail.”

She added that health officials wanted to take her phone because of the videos he had uploaded. 

“The doctor thought I was bad mouthing him, this is completely incorrect and accusatory then they proceeded to say they were going to kick me out of the room or put me in Mulifanua  back at the place we were early which is a greater risk for me as well,” she wrote. 

“I think it is unreasonable to treat people like prisoners or animals. 

“This is unacceptable. 

“This man does not know my medical history and to say these things to me is completely unprofessional.”

Soraya, who has a Samoan husband, requested the Ministry of Health to be allowed to be discharged and self-isolated at home. 

She said that she understands the country is in a state of emergency and appreciates the efforts of the Government.

“I know it is for the greater good of the Samoan people, to help with better processing is it vital to have good communication, planning and kindness to keep everyone's stress level down. 

“The people who are handling this situation need to be a bit caring and kind to us, it would be helpful to brief people at the airport about what is going to happen, that way it will be easier for everyone to digest and deal with. 

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi apologised to the passengers in quarantine during his weekly media programme on Wednesday. 

"I apologise to those that are being [put] in quarantine but these are difficult times," he said.

He added that at the moment, the Catholic Church is in the Lent season.

"People are trying to make personal sacrifices, a sacrifice to make as an offering to the Lord,” he said. 

He said that the passengers must make a sacrifice to the save lives of their children.

"If your children are important than make an offering instead of complaining about little things yet the Government is doing plans for them and their children so they won’t be sick,” the Prime Minister said. 

Travelers entering Samoa from, or transiting through, New Zealand are required to undergo a medical examination by a Registered Medical Practitioner within three days before arrival.

The medical clearance report will be required at check-in prior to the issuing of a boarding pass.

Phone calls and emails to the Ministry of Health were not returned. 

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