Samoa still coronavirus free: Health chief

The Director-General of the Ministry of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, has reassured that Samoa is absolutely coronavirus-free.

"That is the truth," he said. 

Leausa issued the reassurance during a press conference on Tuesday where he emphatically denied reports on social media that someone who had been quarantined and released upon arrival from New Zealand had died as a result of the virus.

The deceased was repatriated on the 17 July 2020 and was released to go home on 31 July 2020. He died last Saturday night. 

"I want to make it clear that as of today, there is still no case of COVID-19 in Samoa," Leausa said. 

"No one has been suspected to have been affected with COVID-19 and after our investigations on the deceased, there were no symptoms that the deceased had contracted COVID-19." 

According to the Director General, the man's death was unexpected as he was strong and visibly healthy.

"From a doctor's perspective, it's possible that the cause of death could be related to heart problems," he said.

"But again, I cannot confirm that until the investigations are completed, after an autopsy or post-mortem has been conducted.

"If we look back at this case, the process for our people on repatriation flights is they need to do tests in New Zealand and have to see a doctor before they travel. 

"Upon arrival, each one of them has to present two reports; one to confirm that they have been tested negative of having corona-virus and the other one from a doctor confirming that he or she is and does have any other symptoms such as fever, coughing, and others. 

"And for the two weeks they are in quarantine for, our Ministry did check-ups and follow up to monitor our people and the deceased had no symptoms. 

"Tests were also done before they were released to go home after two weeks. We also tried to run (some) tests within 24 hours of death and we have the results and it (results) confirms that he did not have COVID.  That is the truth."

Leausa said it's unfortunate people have taken to social to spread false information.

"As a physician, from the history and the findings, we have, the chance of this guy having a positive COVID-test is very minimal," said Leausa. 

"The request for Autopsy is just for confirmation, with evidence. But I can say, with 80 percent or even 100 percent confidence that from what we are looking at, the chances of him contracting COVID, is very very minimal."

Leausa took the opportunity to convey his condolences to the family of the deceased.  

"I firstly offer my condolences to the family of the deceased for the death of the young man who died on Saturday," he said. 

"We feel for the family because of what they are dealing with right now. Not only with the passing of their loved one but also with the way people are looking at them with the assumption that the deceased died because of Covid-19. People are pointing fingers are them which is not good."

Again, he reiterated that the deceased did not die because of COVID-19. 

Leausa said they were shocked when they were informed about reports of a "a possible case of COVID" in Samoa.

"We were also surprised when people started sharing and posting on social media about a case of coronavirus in the country, that was when we started our investigation. 

"At the moment, we are waiting on a post-mortem, and as soon as we find the results, then we will inform you of the things we are unsure about. 

"But all the tests (that were done) are P.C.R. (polymerise chain reaction) tests. All the repatriated passengers are required to have a negative test before boarding and medical clearance."

When queried about when a coroner is likely to travel to Samoa to conduct the investigation, Leausa said: "We are working on that, as you all know that New Zealand has lifted their alert to Level 3, and there has been a lot of new restrictions in New Zealand, especially Auckland. 

"For all of our coroner cases, we are still waiting for a coroner from overseas. We always have to get the approval from the Court, it is now more of a police investigation."

At the moment, no family member of the deceased is allowed to visit him at the morgue.

Asked if the Ministry is able to reveal the results of the tests that were carried out on the deceased, Leausa said such information is "confidential." 

"We cannot reveal the results of the tests that were done on the deceased. It's confidential. But I am telling you that no one was tested positive of all the people that were quarantined at Poutasi. 

"The most reliable information comes from the people who conducted the tests, rather than listening to what other people say."

The Ministry has also reached out to the twelve people who were quarantined together with the deceased to make sure they are okay. 

"We have contacted the group, the twelve of them who were in the two-storey building, we have contacted all of them ever since we got the news on Sunday.

"Most of them are okay, there are no symptoms. But they have been released with our forms and numbers that if they ever feel different or have any signs of fever, or have any generalized weakness then they can contact us. 

"We have made arrangements for them to be re-admitted into the hospital."

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