Farmer calls for social distancing

A banana farmer has appealed to the authorities to enforce social distancing protocols in public markets to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) threat.

Sitagata Hanamenn Hunt, who sells bananas and is from Aleisa, told the Samoa Observer that he has seen people gather at Fugalei market despite a ban on public meetings.

He said officers should be deployed to the market to enforce state of emergency (S.O.E.) orders including dispersing people gathering.

"The most important thing is obeying the requirements of the state of emergency that the Government of Samoa gave us. There should be social distancing here so that we can be protected, even though there is no confirmed case in Samoa," he said.

"I also think that there should be specific people here to check up on that situation because people make mistakes sometimes. They should be allocated here, in this area for further checks and preparation for the disease, and to sustain social distancing. However it is hard to control the distance because we get into close proximity with people when they come to buy the crops and produce.”

While a temporary shutdown of the market like Fugalei could be a solution, Mr Hunt said it will make life difficult for people who sell their produce as a source of income for their families.

However, more public awareness on COVID-19 and how public gatherings can spread the infection could be another option, he added.

“What we can do is an awareness program, such as giving us information through the speakers every hour to remind people of what we should do such as the one meter distance rule between everyone.”

Mr Hunt said people are unlikely to change their habits until they get to hear more about the effect that the virus will have on a person.

Blocks at the Fugalei market – which separates the vendors – can be used by the authorities to enforce social distancing between the sellers.

"I think there is a system here of the distance between each block. The blocks here have already been spaced out so all that's left is enforcing the distance," he added. 

This is the second week of the S.O.E. with Mr Hunt expressing full support for the Government’s response to the COVID-19 threat. 

"I fully support the Government. I think it's a marvelous chance for people to know that the Government is serious. It's not just for one individual, it's for everybody. Some of the vendors here need to understand the significance of it. People should not take it lightly and think deeply about the lives of other people," he said.

The S.O.E. has already affected a number of local businesses but that is not the case with Mr Hunt, who said customers continue to rely on produce sold at the market, which enables him to continue to earn an income. 

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