Air N.Z. defends cargo handling record

Air New Zealand has defended its handling of cargo including COVID-19 test samples following recent criticism by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi.

Speaking on the 2AP Program last week, Tuilaepa claimed there were instances of “incautious and careless behavior” by the airline staff when uplifting respiratory fluid samples that are sent to New Zealand to test for COVID-19.

He said that the handling of the cargo by the airline staff has resulted in the Government becoming concerned about the integrity of the test results.

“We are very distrusting of the tests [COVID-19] being brought to New Zealand [for examination],” he said.

“We’ve noticed some incautious and careless behaviour practiced by the Air New Zealand staff in handling and supervising [the carriage of] these tests meticulously.

“Which means, we are also starting to doubt these tests examined there [in New Zealand].”

But an Air New Zealand spokesperson, in response to questions sent by the Samoa Observer, said the airline’s cargo service is safe and strictly monitored. 

“We are not aware of any issues in regards to this,” said the spokesperson.

“In terms of cargo, we take the utmost care and caution when carrying cargo on our aircraft. “There are protocols and procedures in place to ensure the safe and careful carriage of goods.”

Attempts by the Samoa Observer to get more details on the Prime Minister’s concerns from the Government Press Secretariat were unsuccessful.

According to the Prime Minister, the number of Samoans who have contracted the virus in New Zealand has increased and included passengers who were scheduled to board a flight to Samoa last Friday. 

“The Cabinet [is aware] that we have quite a number of our people affected by the virus and it includes those who were supposed to fly in this Friday,” he said.

Monitoring COVID-19 cases in Auckland, Tuilaepa said the Government will also return to strictly restricting S.O.E. orders for safety assurance.

As part of the SOE orders, the authorities are cracking down on crowded churches to enforce a 100 or less congregation number. According to the Prime Minister, the Police will be patrolling from church to church to count their congregations.

“And if a church disobeys the orders, it’ll be on the pastor’s head because he’s the one looking after the church,” Tuilaepa added.

“It’s also convenient to fine the pastor so the church members can all pay for it and so they would all have a feel of what (the Government) is trying to push. These things are all for the protection of everyone.”

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