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Apolima place hope in island's isolation

Apolima residents have placed their hopes in their small island’s isolation to keep them safe from diseases including the coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic.

About 10 families currently live on the island and have over the years maintained their traditional way of living, lived within their means and protected themselves from foreign elements including infectious diseases.

One of the village chiefs on the island, Salesulu Puluseu Tautaiolevao, told Samoa Observer in a telephone interview that all members of the island’s 10 families have kept away from Upolu and Savai’i for fear of bringing the virus to the island.

"We're keeping the limit of five or four people in a (traffic boat) trip to Upolu in order to combat the virus, and we're also stopping our usual church services," he said.

Apolima only has one church on the island – the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (CCCS) – and the island is keeping it traditional during services.

Every evening the bell's ring will bring about a sign for families to hold their evening services as well as Sunday services, except that the church minister will be a part of the families' Sunday services from home to home.

Just like how the residents adapted to protect their community during the measles outbreak last year, they are now being monitored when travelling to the mainland.

Apolima does not have a hospital and the travel restrictions imposed on the island’s residents tries to make up for that. But serious cases needing medical attention are taken to the Upolu medical center, according to the Salesulu.

There are no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 yet in Samoa. But the island is cautious of people travelling to the island. 

On top of that the island has imposed unofficial rules for funerals and special events to ensure a limited number of people are involved, according to Salesulu. 

"The village chiefs have decided to limit the number of incoming people for such events so we can protect our families and our children," he said. "I know funerals are important to families but if we lose other lives because of our carelessness then that's a problem and with this, we're not allowing anymore passengers except those who have to drop off important stuff for funerals (for example) if necessary and in a limited number."

During the measles epidemic last year, the island’s late Mayor Tautaiolevao said deadly diseases are of immense concern for the island residents due to the lack of medical supplies.

The same concern remains for the Island’s residents with the current COVID-19.

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