Isolation unit secured; further coronavirus tests awaited
Security guarded Moto’otua Hospital's isolation unit on Friday where Samoa's first person to test positive for COVID-19 was being kept, as the Government waited on further tests to confirm his infection.
Health officials were seen in full protective suits outside an isolation tent set-up at the old Dentist Ward at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital.
In a statement released late on Friday evening, the Government Press Secretariat said that samples for a confirmatory test for the man who had tested positive were on their way to New Zealand and expected to return the same day.
"[The] Government is planning to send [the swab test] to New Zealand this weekend on a cargo flight arriving Friday and returning the same day," a statement on Friday evening said.
While awaiting the results from New Zealand, the sailor who has been in isolation at the national hospital since Wednesday evening will also be tested again on Saturday.
The Director-General of the Ministry of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, told a press conference on Friday afternoon that the two tests should confirm whether the man is infected with the virus.
Interim Chair of the National Emergency Operation Centre (N.E.O.C.), Agafili Shem Leo, said Cabinet had extended the country's state of emergency to 22 December.
But he said the Government will await the final test results before deciding whether to make further amendments to state of emergency regulations.
“Schools will continue as usual but with the same token, we are urging parents, guardians and teachers to follow strict precautionary measures to protect our children at all costs,” said Agafili.
In a press conference on Thursday afternoon following a Cabinet meeting Leausa explained that the man had twice tested negative since his initial positive test on Wednesday.
He also said that when the flight arrived in Auckland on Friday afternoon all of the arriving 274 Samoan passengers, including the sailor, were tested at the airport. The tests on arrival are a new precautionary measure because of the number of Samoans returning from high risk countries such as in Europe, Take said.
Prior to departing Europe for Samoa via Auckland, the sailor carried documentation confirming he had a negative coronavirus test and a doctor's report showing he did not display any symptoms of the virus.
Meanwhile, the Government has not yet cancelled any further planned repatriation flights, from Auckland and one leaving from Los Angeles to Apia on 27 November.
Further flights from Auckland are scheduled for 4 December and 11 December.
New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was considering a request for Samoan nationals scheduled for repatriation flights to undergo two weeks' quarantine in Auckland before boarding a plane for Apia.
"Currently, New Zealand’s [managed isolation and quarantine] facilities are available to transiting nationals of Samoa if those nationals have the Government of Samoa’s endorsement to travel to Samoa," a Ministry spokeswoman told the Samoa Observer on Friday.
"If the costs of [managed isolation and quarantine] are met by the individuals themselves, if there is availability in New Zealand’s [managed isolation and quarantine] facilities and, where necessary, vouchers are obtained."
Quarantining in New Zealand could apply to the 27 November flight from Los Angeles to Apia but also be extended to apply to Auckland-Apia flights.
Meanwhile, on Friday a security guard in his lavalava was stationed meters away from the isolated area, which was completely sealed off with a metal fence.
The isolation ward is the new home for the sailor who tested positive, and his roommate, with whom he arrived last Friday and stayed in the same room while in quarantine.
According to the Ministry of Health, the men and other passengers on the flight who came from Europe via New Zealand all tested negative upon arrival.
“Although the roommate, also a sailor from Europe [...] tested negative, health authorities have isolated the pair together as a precautionary measure,” said the Government Press Secretariat.
“Police have also been mobilised to the Hospital for security reasons and to ensure there is no breach or contact between the two sailors with unauthorised personnel.”
Leausa said that all precautionary and preventive protocols within the Government’s COVID-19 preparedness and response plan would be executed to the letter.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi said Government officials continue to remain vigilant.
“All the necessary health measures are enforced to eliminate any possible danger to our country,” he said.
The Prime Minister urged the country to remain calm.
“Let us continue to remain calm and not lose our faith in our never ending divine blessings from our Father in Heaven…”