S.O.E. extension, Sunday restrictions and the need for common sense

And so the Government has decided to extend the coronavirus pandemic State of Emergency (S.O.E.) for another month. That’s what Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, said earlier this week during a media interview where he also revealed plans to stop repatriation flights completely in an effort to protect Samoa from the deadly virus.

But without a case of coronavirus, and with the nation already crippled by the impact of the border shutdowns and the knock-on effect of global preventative measures, are all the S.O.E. restrictions really necessary?

Looking at some of them, including the Sunday restrictions, what do they have to do with the coronavirus – which in Samoa we have no case? It is prevention or is it just another example of the Government flexing its muscles simply because they can? But hold that thought for a minute.

In making the announcement last week, the Prime Minister noted that there has been no substantial improvement observed in the developments of the pandemic around the globe. Looking at the latest statistics, Prime Minister Tuilaepa has a point.

At the time when this piece was being prepared, the number of coronavirus deaths had climbed to 682,178 from 17.74million cases worldwide. When we break down these statistics, there are some really disturbing developments.

For instance, in the United States of America, it was reported that one person died about every minute from Covid-19 on Friday when that country’s death toll surpassed 150,000, the highest fatality rate in the world. On that day alone also, America recorded 1,456 deaths, its highest one-day death toll.

Closer to home, the rise in the number of cases in Australia appears extremely alarming. The state of Victoria for example reported more than 700 cases on Friday, marking the highest daily tally of the pandemic in that country. Thirteen new deaths were announced, also recording another daily high for Australia.

These are grim statistics but they provide a snapshot of just how difficult, complex and tragic the pandemic can be. These statistics are replicated in a number of other countries near and far, with coronavirus appearing to have made a comeback with a vengeance just when it looked for a moment that the worst was over.  

Which is why Samoa must do everything in its power to ensure the virus is kept at bay. It is also why the Government’s plan to consider cancelling repatriation flights from New Zealand makes sense. Without a case in Samoa as of yet, the virus remains an outside threat, which means the solution is quite simple, continue to keep it away from Samoa. At all costs.

So far, we have been blessed and protected. Of hundreds of Samoans who have been repatriated from New Zealand, no one has been tested positive. Which is a credit to the collective effort by everyone working in tandem to ensure this remains the case.

But we cannot be complacent. All it will take is one person to change everything. After the measles crisis where 83 lives were wasted last year, it would be extremely negligent for this nation not to learn from what happened. Besides, without a known cure, we do not have the resources, facilities, drugs or the manpower to handle an outbreak of this virus in Samoa. The best protection is a cautious approach.

With that said, today, we find ourselves in an environment fraught with challenges. Economically, things are in a downward spiral. With the lockdown and limited operation capacity, businesses, especially in the tourism and hospitality industry, are being smashed with their revenues barely able to cover wages.

Elsewhere, the revenue generation ability for ordinary people has been severely restricted to the point some of them have resorted to a sad life of begging and crime to get by. The stories on the pages of this newspaper about robberies, break-ins and the alarming crime rate during the past few months should worry us all. With such an uncertain future, poverty and hardship are inevitable. This is a future nobody wants.

It is why we are imploring Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his Government to reconsider a number of these restrictions – including the Sunday trading bans – to allow some breathing space and Samoa to self-stimulate our own economy.

Take the ban on swimming for example. Without a case of coronavirus, how will this help Samoa? But then that’s just one of the many controversial restrictions. What does closing the petrol stations have to do with coronavirus? What about the tyre shops? What risk do they pose to the health of a nation? Why can’t people enjoy a glass of wine and a steak at a hotel of their choice on a Sunday afternoon? What about inter-island sailing on Sundays?

During the weekdays, why are restaurants required to close at 10pm? Why are supermarkets still being forced to close at 7pm? What do these have to do with coronavirus?

What are these restrictions really designed to achieve? Are they coronavirus-related or are they merely at the whim of a Government abusing the opportunity to assert more influence and control?

We should be dancing on the streets about the fact we do not have a case of coronavirus. As long as the border is secured and the virus kept at bay, this is the very reason the Government must consider loosening up all unnecessary restrictions – to allow our people to help themselves.  

We are a democratic nation that is coronavirus-free. We should be the envy of the world and it is why we cannot plainly accept the continuation of some of these draconian S.O.E. martial laws, Sunday restrictions to name a few, designed to be enforced during an emergency.

Without a case of coronavirus, what exactly is the emergency?  

Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!


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