With no case declared, time to ease some S.O.E. restrictions

The good news is on the front page of the newspaper you are reading. The declaration by the Director General of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, that Samoa remains coronavirus free with no further suspected cases brings a mighty sense of relief.

Coming at a time when nations near and far are reeling from the deadly impact of the COVID19 pandemic which has already killed 202,900 people and multiplying quickly, it is comforting to know that Samoa remains one of the few places on earth without the virus.

And Leausa is correct to attribute that to the Government’s COVID19 quick response to limit interactions with the outside world. The last group of people who could have possibly brought the virus given their time in Fiji and New Zealand were 259 passengers required to undergo mandatory quarantine and so far, so good.

“It’s now nearly two weeks after we released the people under mandatory quarantine and none of them has come back to complain about anything, including the fever,” Leausa said. But the good news doesn’t stop there.

 “What we’ve also noticed is that there was a flu going around at the time that coronavirus arrived … that also seems to have disappeared,

“We believe there is no explanation for this other than the measures we had put in place (have worked). We closed the schools minimising interaction of the kids, we minimised the movement of people, put in place social distancing, banned public gatherings and we’ve had no visitors from overseas.”

We couldn’t agree more. There is a lot to be said about the positives brought about by the S.O.E. lockdown. While it cannot be denied that nobody wanted an S.O.E. lockdown at the start, five weeks into this “new normal,” each and every one of us will have a story to tell about some of the positives we’ve found during the experience. There are lots of positives. It hasn’t been as bad as some of us thought it would be.

The best part for Samoa is that we do not have a case of the deadly virus. We want it to stay that way, forever if at all possible. We have to be mindful that this pandemic is far from over and we cannot be complacent.

At the same time, we have to exercise wisdom and common sense. For instance, if the airport remains tightly shut from people who could import the virus to Samoa, common sense tells us that we should be able to continue to keep it at bay. And in that case, it should be safe for the Government and the authorities to consider further easing some of the S.O.E. orders to allow businesses, schools and perhaps churches to resume.

Last week, prominent local businessman, Lemalu Ray Ah Liki, called on the Government to ease some of the restrictions in a bid to jumpstart the economy.

While he emphasised that he applauded the Government for the COVID19 response, Lemalu said attention should now be turning to restore normality in terms of life in Samoa.

"By next week they should be lifting the ban and get our people to start to work again and move the economy because we're going to [have to] rely on our local economy," Lemalu said.

"Even with private remittances [they are] starting to slow down, it's declining and for a probable reason as economies overseas are also being affected, in New Zealand and Australia. It is harder for them to send money now, they can only send so much."

This means Samoa will have to provide its own stimulus and that can only happen when businesses are allowed to operate – including all the markets they have closed on Sunday mornings. But it’s not just businesses and the economy we should be thinking about.

The Government needs to think about education and how we can restore some form of normality as soon as possible. It is widely known that our student population has suffered so much from the disruptions. First there was the measles crisis, then came the threat of cyclones and now the coronavirus.

Even with online technology and these so-called TV classrooms, there is no substitute for students actually being taught by their teachers in classrooms. We have to remember that we are talking about months of interrupted learning that will have a long lasting impact on the future of this nation.

The sooner these students return to the classroom the better.

With that said, we want to re-emphasise the need for everyone to take absolute care to ensure that if the need arises over the threat of the coronavirus, we should all continue to cooperate with the S.O.E. orders to ensure safety and the protection of all lives.

Have a safe week Samoa, God bless!




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