There is no place for complacency in guarding Samoa against coronavirus pandemic

Samoa has done very well so far to keep the deadly coronavirus at bay.

Credit must go to everyone involved in the effort to keep our nation coronavirus free – including the Government, National Emergency Operation Centre, health officials and all the support staff.

The latest statistics speak for themselves. Of 13.2 million cases of the virus, more than 570,000 people have died and this number continues to climb as you are reading this.

We are very fortunate that so far we have been spared. But we are not out of the woods yet. Far from it. In countries near and far, including New Zealand, Australia and Fiji, confirmed cases are beginning to pick up again, after much celebration when they thought they had dealt with the worst of the virus.

Which presents a real threat to Samoa, especially with repatriation flights continuing from New Zealand on a weekly basis.

Today there is reason to believe that we have been complacent in dealing with residents returning from New Zealand. Aside from rumours of protocols being violated and quarantine rules being ignored, two incidents during the weekend directly involving people who are being quarantined, should alarm us all.

The first one was revealed in a story titled “Quarantine brawl leaves one in hospital” published on the Sunday Samoan. The incident involved a fight that broke out at a quarantine site on Friday evening, which left one person needing urgent medical attention. The Samoa Observer was told that the brawl broke out between two roommates  involving alcohol.

"We found the other one passed out on the floor bleeding from his head it seems they had been pushing each other around or maybe they threw punches," the Samoa Observer was told. "It seems his head hit something as he fell and so he was taken to the Faleolo Hospital and the other was taken to another accommodation."

The second incident was highlighted in a story titled “Police to investigate alleged drunken quarantine brawl” published on the front page of yesterday’s Samoa Observer. This time another fight broke out among passengers moments after they touched down in Samoa. Deputy Police Commissioner, Papali’i Monalisa Tiai-Keti, said the incident is a breach of state of emergency orders.

 “It is most likely we would impose the fine because there are conditions under the [state of emergency] orders for the travellers and if they breach any of the travel advisories conditions by the Health, they are subject under that,” she said.

 “We are all under the N.E.O.C. [National Emergency Operations Centre] so the Police enforce the breaches but isolation is handled by the Health [Ministry of Health]. They are most likely fined under the [state of emergency breaches of] fines.”

When the Director General of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri was contacted he said all the details in relation to the incident were passed on to the Savali newspaper for media inquiries.   “Everything regarding that case has been transferred to the Savali Newspaper for your media dissemination,” he said.

But Savali newspaper editor, Lave Tuiletufuga, when contacted by the Samoa Observer said he is not aware of the case or the media queries arrangement.

 “Unless it has been referred to Ulu [N.E.O.C Chair Ulu Bismarck Crawley] but at the moment we have nothing delivered to us,” he said.

Well it would be really good for all the relevant officials to be upfront and more transparent in the handling of these cases. What’s mind-boggling is that as far as the rules go for quarantine, alcohol is banned. How did these passengers get alcohol? And who is monitoring what is given to them and who they come in contact with? We say this because even with those security officers stationed at those outposts, do we really trust them to keep all these people on site?

A few months ago, there were only a few people coming back who were required to undergo the mandatory quarantine process. That is not the case anymore. There are hundreds of returning residents and they are being spread out all over the country. This itself provides its own challenges. We believe members of the public also have a right to know what these places are and where.

We cannot stress this enough; we cannot be complacent when it comes to safety and the protection of precious lives.

All it will take is one careless person to spread the coronavirus in Samoa. Apart from the fact there is no cure just yet, our health system will not be able to withstand an outbreak on these shores. The cost in terms of lives and the economy is just too enormous to even begin to comprehend.

The best cure for Samoa is to continue to keep the virus at bay. It is that simple.

With this happening so soon after the measles epidemic killed 83 people in Samoa last year, this country can never be too careful.

Which is why we believe the Government should revisit its procedures and processes when it comes to quarantine.  We need to learn our lessons from what is happening elsewhere. When the authorities in those countries relaxed and thought they had won the battle against the virus, they congratulated themselves and ultimately dropped their guards. The end result has been disastrous.

Samoa cannot drop her guard. The point is that there must be no place for complacency in guarding our people and our country against such a deadly virus. Our best weapon is to remain on guard and to keep the virus as far away as possible from our shores – even if that includes spacing out these repatriation flights.

Stay safe and have a great Tuesday Samoa, God bless!



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