Only people who meet criteria can be tested for COVID19

By Adel Fruean 21 May 2020, 5:00PM

The Ministry of Health has specified that not everyone will be tested for COVID19 unless they meet the criteria for testing.

This was confirmed by the Deputy Director General for Public Health, Tagaloa Dr. Robert Thomsen, during a programme by the Ministry of Health on television.

Earlier this month, Samoa received World Health Organisation (W.H.O) laboratory testing equipment provided by Australian and New Zealand donors.

This has enabled Samoa to test for the coronavirus within an hour.

Samoa Observer has made four separate attempts by email and phone calls since Monday to get comments from the Ministry of Health on the strategy of using the tests.

No response has been received.

But speaking during the programme, Tagaloa said only a few people can apply for testing.

“If we look at New Zealand as an example they have criteria for testing,” he said.

The Deputy Director General for Public Health added that in New Zealand, if a person does not meet these criteria, they are not tested.

“But for us that do not have a confirmed case. If you have symptoms such as coughing, fever, sore throat, and breathing problems plus if you have shared contact with any of your relatives that travelled from overseas especially the countries that have confirmed cases these are the criteria for testing.

“An example is that the people who arrived from previous flights and were quarantined only two showed symptoms and we conducted samples because they meet the criteria and were taken to be tested and if it came negative then those people would be cleared but if it was positive then there are other steps to be followed.

“And also people that came and were self-quarantined at their homes if they showed symptoms and meet the criteria then we will conduct the test.”

He added that their Ministry cannot test everyone that come to the hospitals or suspected in symptoms of the disease [coronavirus].

According to a travel advisory and information paper to inform travelers coming to Samoa, it stated that all passengers travelling from abroad must be quarantined for 14 days at a designated facility.

“The purpose of this quarantine is to minimise the potential for COVID-19 to be introduced into the wider Samoan public,” read the statement.

It also added that even though passengers may feel well the Ministry cannot at this stage rule out any exposure passengers may have had potentially in the last few days and even exposure on the flight over to Samoa. 

“All passengers are required to have a COVID19 test and a medical report done within three days before arrival.

“You will not be permitted to board the plane if you have a positive COVID19 test or COVID19 test not done.

“Or you have any of the following symptoms: cough, fever, sore throat, flu-like symptoms.

“You will be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival into Samoa at a designated location.”

Passengers must prepare and bring with them personal hygiene items such as soap, tooth brush, tooth paste and enough to last for 14 days of quarantine.

“You will only be allowed one piece of luggage when boarding. You are not allowed to bring any additional packages/parcels for delivery upon arrival into Samoa to family members.

“If you have any known medical conditions, you must inform Foreign Affairs and [Ministry of Health] M.O.H. what your conditions are and what medication you are on prior to departure and ensure you have enough medication to last you for two months.

“You are not allowed to bring alcohol into the country or allowed to take any into the quarantine sites.”

The passengers must also indicate to Foreign Affairs and M.O.H. if they have a special dietary requirement or allergies prior to departure. 

“You are required to maintain social distancing in flight and must wear a face mask at all times.

“All children should be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Parents are advised that all children’s immunizations are up to date with emphasis on measles vaccination due to the recent outbreak in Samoa. 

“Parent/legal guardian travelling with an infant/child must ensure sufficient supplies of basic need e.g. diapers, wipes, formula etc. while in quarantine.”

Passengers were also warned that there are penalties if the conditions of the quarantine are breached.

They were also advised on the following important notes in relation to their quarantine: 

1. It is important that you observe infection prevention and control advice which includes: 

a. Wear a mask at all times when leaving your room and when you are in close contact with a person with respiratory symptoms. 

b. Wash your hands regularly with soap and clean water for 40-60 seconds or alcohol-based hand rub (sanitizer) for 20-30 seconds.

c. Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw it into the bin and wash your hands after. 

d. Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth. 

e. Avoid gatherings of more than five people.

f. Clean frequently touched surfaces (door handles, phones etc.) 

g. Alert our health team if you feel sick during anytime whilst in quarantine.

2. You are required to clean your own room/space – the equipment and products will be available, please ask the staff. 

3. Your food will be supplied (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and delivered. Those who have given prior advice of special dietary needs will be provided. 

4. You should have with you a sufficient supply of the basic essential needs including for personal hygiene items for your 14 day quarantine.

5. You are to make your own arrangements for communication and internet services. 

6. You are allowed to walk around outside but must wear a face mask, stay within the compound, and observe social distancing – at least 2 metres between you and another person when talking or socialising.

7. You are not allowed to consume alcohol while in quarantine.  

8. The Government of Samoa will not be responsible for any damaged or lost personal items. You are liable to pay for any damage to quarantine facilities throughout the quarantine period.  

In addition: 

1. A Public Health team will come around to check your temperature and screen for respiratory symptoms daily as part of the quarantine process – it is important that you comply and advise the team honestly if you are experiencing any illness. The key signs and symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, sore throat, and shortness of breath.  

2. During this process, please advise the team of any medical conditions you have and medications that you are taking. 

3. Please alert the team if you have any urgent medical needs. 

Quarantine can be distressing, it is important you maintain good mental health. Some suggestions of items you can bring with you to ease the stress while in quarantine; Pack a book(s) to read and have activity books e.g. Sudoku and cross word colouring/activity books for children.

Passengers were also advised that their compliance with the conditions listed herein is imperative to ensuring the safety of all who are travelling and our people in Samoa. 




By Adel Fruean 21 May 2020, 5:00PM

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