Quarantine confusion? Let's be transparent in our processes

The authorities responsible for the 14-day quarantine rule have to do a lot better than to blame confusion for a gap, which has exposed preferential treatment by the authorities at the expense of law-abiding travellers.

They must also be a lot more transparent and assure the people of this country that Zachary Schuster is the only person who slipped from the Faleolo International Airport when everyone else, on the last two three flights that landed in Samoa before the border shutdown, was required to undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Due to the infectious nature of COVID-19, it is a matter of life and death, the public in Samoa deserve to know the truth. We say this because the health of a nation is stake here; yes a matter of life and death.

If there are more people out there like Mr. Schuster who should be subjected to quarantine, the relevant authorities owe it the people of Samoa to tell us who these people are, where they are and where they might have been.

We cannot take a chance. Anything less could seriously jeopardise the nationwide effort, which has been driven by the Government since day one of the coronavirus response.

There is more to it. This is about fairness. The fact is that close to four hundred other people are being quarantined at different locations throughout Upolu as part of the Government’s response to stop the coronavirus from entering our borders. It’s a measure we fully support as tough as it is on the people involved, including elders, babies and people with special medical conditions that should be home.

The majority of these people, passengers from Fiji and New Zealand, would rather be home. But they have had to forego that privilege for the sake of the nation’s health. It’s a tough one. Although they arrived from countries where cases of the coronavirus had been found, there is no guarantee that any of them has the virus. But there is also absolutely no guarantee that they don’t have it either which, means the only solution is to subject them to the rigorous and uncomfortable quarantine process until they are given the proper medical clearance.    

During the weekend, it emerged that some people slipped under the radar.

Apart from the Australian High Commissioner, who was given special clearance by Cabinet given her diplomatic immunity, another passenger was Mr. Schuster.

Asked how this happened, the man in charge of the National Emergency Operations Centre (N.E.O.C.), Ulu Bismarck Crawley, said there was confusion about the implementation of the Cabinet directive when the flight touched down on Tuesday.

 “It was half an hour before the flight landed that the Cabinet moved to make [quarantine] compulsory and the poor people were confused,” Ulu said.

Well that doesn’t sound right, does it? If there was confusion, how come most of the passengers were ushered straight to quarantine? How come people like Soraya May were just told where to go and what to do? How was it possible that Mr. Schuster slipped out? Did he hopped off the plane before it landed? How was he processed at Immigration and Customs? There cannot be any confusion about any of those processes, if all those other passengers were told what to do and they obliged.

The scary thought about this little mystery is that we have no idea whether Mr. Schuster was the only one who slipped through.

The Samoa Observer has sent questions to the Ministry of Health and the Government Press Secretariat asking how many passengers escaped quarantine and what criteria was used to determine who was placed in quarantine. At the time of writing, no response has been received. Which is disappointing.

The people of Samoa need to know the truth. They need a reassurance that away from the Australian High Commissioner and Mr. Schuster, no one else escaped quarantine.

Without a proven case of the coronavirus, the Government has pulled out all the stops – including closing the borders and some extremely draconian orders under a State of Emergency Order – in a bid to protect this country.

All this effort will amount to absolutely nothing if the coronavirus is brought in by someone, who slipped through, when they should have been quarantined for 14 days. Needless to say the risk this poses to the health of this nation is immense.

To blame confusion is just as irresponsible as the official who made the call that allowed Mr. Schuster to leave Faleolo Airport. He couldn’t have possibly just hopped out of the plane and left. There needs to be accountability for this little mystery.

Otherwise they have just placed this nation’s health at great risk.

Stay home, wash your hands, pray and stay safe Samoa, God bless!






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