Health's $20 million boost

The Government has approved an extra $20 million for the health response to the coronavirus (COVID-19), of which $7 million alone is for consumable goods.

Speaking in Parliament today, Minister of Finance Sili Epa Tuioti said the total $66.3 million COVID19 response plan, which includes a private sector stimulus package, a food security package relief targeted at consumers would “secure a quality of life for every citizen.”

The budget is intended to focus on the next three to six months, Sili said; he flagged that there may be a second supplementary budget in six months’ time with the budget estimates for next year. 

Prevention efforts, testing and contacting tracing, quarantine measures and medical equipment are all included in the health response budget.

Treatment measures will be bolstered with an isolation room and negative pressure room, costing together $5.5 million. 

These measures will be welcome relief to the frontline health workers who, only three months ago, had come out of the four month measles epidemic that led to more than 80 people’s death and had hospital staff working overtime for weeks on end.

A further $2.5 million will be allocated for the Emergency Services and Police, and $1.5 million to education, communication and community outreach efforts. 

“The Government’s commitment maintains that the priority will be the safety and security of Samoa from any disaster that could eventuate,” Sili said.

The Samoa Observer understands the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) has already begun the process of ordering Cepheid GeneXpert test cartridges which will enable the hospital to test for COVID-19 at point of care, instead of send tests abroad.

The GeneXpert tests take 45 minutes to work and test for the virus’ genetic material in a sample. M.O.H. expects they will arrive in three to four weeks.

So far Samoa has tested 31 people, 20 of which have been negative and 11 swabs are waiting transport to New Zealand on the next available flight.

Those who have been tested had fever, flu like symptoms and a travel history within two weeks of showing symptoms.

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