Tautua calls for border vigilance

The leader of the Tautua Samoa Party, Afualo Luagalau Dr. Salele, has called for greater vigilance and transparency on border protection during times of crisis. 

His comments came after news surfaced that three members of the Fesco Askold crew tested positive for the coronavirus on waters outside Pago Pago, after spending the previous 22 hours docked in Apia. 

“They need to revisit their strategies and test everyone that comes through our borders,” said Afualo.

“They have millions at their disposal and they need to invest those funds into purchasing more test kits.”

A total of 17 people are in managed quarantine after working to clear cargo from the Cuban-flagged container vessel, the Government confirmed on Tuesday.

Four are Government staff from the Ministry of Health and the Samoa Port Authority and 13 are stevedoring crew members who helped dock the Fesco Askold and unload the containers.

“It is not acceptable that people entering our borders are only required to fork up test results documents, from their last destination. They should be tested on-site to ensure that every action is taken on keeping Samoa coronavirus-free,” Afualo said. 

Afualo also criticised the Government for its lack of transparency. 

It was confirmed that the Director-General of Health, Dr. Leausa Take Naseri, had been warned by American Samoan Department of Health authorities about 9.30 pm on Monday evening.

The Government’s official press conference announcing its managed isolation response was held nearly a full day later and Leausa refused to answer repeated queries from this newspaper.

“The usual song by the [Director General is] do not panic, the same song sung last year and [look] what happened during the measles: lives were lost before the Government acted,” he said. 

“They were informed by the American Samoa Government on Monday night and their statement issued regarding the response, was issued the next day in the evening. 

“That is not acceptable, they should do better and be transparent all the time issues as such arises.”

Last week, the National Emergency Operations Centre (N.E.O.C.) fronted up to the media in a press conference about their controlled isolation of frontline workers who had interacted with the ship’s cargo. 

The Interim Chairperson of the N.E.O.C., Agafili Shem Leo, Director-General of Health Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, and Chief Executive Officer of the Samoa Ports Authority So’oalo Kuresa So’oalo gave statements and took questions from the media.

Leausa said the 17 crew members aboard the ship had cleared the national requirements for entry, including holding negative COVID-19 test results from their previous port Tahiti, and cleared the on-board health check conducted by local officials.

Because of this, none of the crew was tested in Apia but the four-person local crew that went on-board were in full personal protective equipment, the Director-General said.

None of the crew disembarked the vessel, and the local officials that boarded the vessel at the quarantine buoy off the coast of Apia did not interact closely with them, Leausa added.

Because of this, the Government said it considers the event a very low risk event and will not therefore conduct further contact tracing.



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