Safety paramount for airport workers

Police officers and health workers awaiting repatriation flights at the Faleolo International Airport should maintain social distancing and use personal protection equipment [P.P.E.] when directing passengers.

That is the view of the National Emergency Operations Committee [N.E.O.C.] Chair, Ulu Bismarck Crawley, when questioned by the Samoa Observer in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

Last Saturday 200-plus passengers flew into Samoa from Auckland, New Zealand and were met by officials and moved to three buses and 30 vans to be taken to selected sites including hotels to undergo their mandatory 14-day quarantine.

However, photos taken by the Samoa Observer of the disembarking travellers showed policemen and women only wearing face masks and white gloves but with no P.P.E. as they ushered the passengers to the waiting buses and vans. 

Two Ministry of Health [M.O.H.] staff wore face masks as well as plastic coats over their white uniforms, but it could not be confirmed if the plastic coats that they wore were PPE supplied to staff working at the airport.

The pictures also showed the arriving passengers standing in close proximity to each other and when walking past officials, despite caution by the Government for a two-meter social distancing rule to be maintained at all times.

Ulu, when highlighting the need for all Government officials working at the airport to process incoming repatriation to think safety, said wearing the P.P.E. is mandatory for all health workers deployed to work at Faleolo.

"They (health workers) are required to wear P.P.E. for protection and when they get to the office they take them off (to sanitise) but we will look into the social distancing issue,” he said during the interview.

Asked what process do Government officials deployed to the airport subject themselves to in order to reduce the risks of infection after processing passengers, Ulu said they are required to sanitise themselves at their offices prior to returning to their homes.

He added that normally all Government employees involved in the repatriation and quarantine processes are included in a specific program as per M.O.H. protocols.

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