Minister says safety of Samoa Govt's priority

By Tina Mata'afa-Tufele 12 August 2020, 8:30PM

The Minister of Health, Faimalo Kika Stowers-Ah Kau, is clear on the Government's priority as far as the coronavirus pandemic goes.

While nations like the United States, Australia and others have called for an independent inquiry into the World Health Organization's  (W.H.O.) response to the coronavirus, Faimalo said her priority and that of the Samoan Government is to ensure the people of Samoa are protected. 

The Minister made the comments during an interview with the Samoa Observer on the sideline of the COVID-19 Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS) Awareness Workshop being held in Apia this week.

“The short and simple answer is: the government’s priority is protecting Samoa and keeping Samoa safe," she said. 

"The Government’s first priority is protecting Samoa and then we can look to ideas that are being discussed outside [of Samoa] but I will inform the Cabinet of what you speak of.

“Perhaps in the future it will be addressed but right now – we need to further push up our response in terms of what we are doing to protect Samoa."

With Samoa's border opened to New Zealand for repatriation flights, the Minister was mindful of the developments in New Zealand. 

"Cabinet will meet this afternoon because now we know that New Zealand has moved its lockdown to Level 3. That is what we are focusing on first. That is the government’s priority at the moment. We don’t look at or collect what other nations are doing, the first priority for the government is Samoa. 

"Afterward, then maybe we can look at that.”

Asked if the Health Ministry was pleased with China’s “openness” in response to the December 2019 coronavirus outbreak, Faimalo said the government is not interested in talking about other countries.

“We aren’t talking about other countries. We aren’t interested in talking about any other country. We are only talking about Samoa and the focus is keeping Samoa safe and going out to visit the villages.  We aren’t looking at what other nations are doing,” she said.

“But it is useful to look outside to other countries so we know what is happening to assist with our planning in Samoa…right now, I have received no update as far as what you have asked about [the independent inquiry]. Perhaps we might look at it in the future, if we receive information about it.”

The Minister said Cabinet is being advised about the developments in New Zealand.

“We have received information about the second wave of COVID-19 in New Zealand so we will look at that,” said Faimalo.

In May, the 194 governments that make up the World Health Assembly unanimously agreed to establish an inquiry into W.H.O.’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The European Union and Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, led the push for an inquiry.

In May, U.S. President Donald Trump lashed out at the UN's health body by labelling it a "puppet of China," said BBC.

The comment came after the U.S. said W.H.O. had let Covid-19 spin "out of control" at the cost of "many lives".

"There was a failure by this organisation to obtain the information that the world needed," U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar said.

Azar made the comments in an address to the UN's World Health Assembly.

W.H.O. chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus earlier agreed to a review over the agency's handling of the pandemic.

Tedros said an independent evaluation, which would look at what lessons could be learned and put forward any recommendations, would take place "at the earliest opportunity".

The work of the UN's health agency (W.H.O.) came amid recriminations between the U.S. and China over the virus.

Trump, who faces re-election this year and has been criticised for his handling of the pandemic, has blamed China for trying to cover up the outbreak and has accused the W.H.O. of failing to hold Beijing to account.

"I chose not to make a statement today," Trump said in May, while describing W.H.O. as "China-centric" and "a puppet of China".

He said W.H.O. "gave us a lot of very bad advice, terrible advice" and were "wrong so much and always on the side of China."

By Tina Mata'afa-Tufele 12 August 2020, 8:30PM

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