Samoan students in Fiji tell of fear, shock

Two Samoan students studying at the University of South Pacific (U.S.P.) in Fiji have spoken of the shock of learning about a couple, whose barbershop they frequented for a haircut, both tested positive to coronavirus.

The two students, who did not want to be identified for fear of losing their scholarships, told the Samoa Observer that the global pandemic struck closer to home when the couple who run a barbershop in a mall opposite the university tested positive.

"There were confirmed cases near the campus," said one of the students.

"He is a male of 33 years and was working at one of the barber shops in one of the shopping centers across campus. Him and his wife who is also a hairdresser in Suva city were both confirmed cases."

The duo are aware of colleagues who visited the barbershop for a haircut, especially male students and they now fear prior contact that they may have had with students prior to the lockdown.

"This sparked shock for us students on campus because some of the boys use these barbershop services and we are really worried as to exposure during this man's working hours. However, up to now no cases have been confirmed on campus," she added.

As for the second student, she said the experience of living through the Fiji government-declared lockdown is scary.

"The lockdown has been one of the scariest times ever in my experience. Being on lockdown for almost a month while away from my family and loved ones hasn't made it any easier," she added.

"Seeing other regional students returning to their islands as well as some of our own Samoan students, having this privilege adds more to the fear of going through a panic experience, when the world is at stake to fight the pandemic at hand.”

The remaining Samoan students at the USP campus do not feel alone, they added, as they are supported by their classmates and the Samoan community in Suva, including the Samoan government counsellor.

"Despite the fear and panic I am grateful we have a whole family of Samoan friends as well as the support from our locals at the University of the South Pacific and the Samoan Church Community in Suva helping out each other to get through this lockdown period,” added the student. 

“Our Samoan counselor has also assisted us with sanitary face masks and has been checking up on our students regularly to make sure we are coping well despite the current circumstances.”

In a message to families and friends back home in Samoa, one of the two students said they are well and are trying their best to stay focused on their studies.

"I just want to let our families know that we are doing well and staying healthy as much as possible while trying to still focus on studies regardless of the lockdown. We are all fighting the same battle so our situation isn't anything special compared to other places and people who are experiencing the terrifying horrors of COVID-19," she said.

COVID-19 cases in Fiji currently stand at 15 with data provided by the Johns Hopkins University putting the number of confirmed cases globally at 1.4 million with over 82,000 deaths.

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