Medical Association supports postponing international arrivals
The President of the Samoa Medical Association, Leniu Dr. Asaua Faasino, has backed the Government’s decision to put off bringing its far flung citizens home as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on around the world.
She told the Samoa Observer on Saturday that she feels the risks of importing the virus are still too high.
But with the United Kingdom and the United States of America already planning their first vaccination campaigns with newly approved vaccines, Samoans abroad may soon have a better chance of coming home, Leniu suggested.
“My thinking is a vaccine is coming out. So where they are, they would have the best chance of getting vaccinated before they come,” she said. “I know we’ll get it, but later.”
This week the U.K announced it was approving the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine after phase three trial analysis showed it is 95 per cent effective in preventing infections of COVID-19.
The country has ordered 40 million doses of the two-stage vaccine, enough to vaccine 20 million people, with 800,000 doses delivered from Belgium next week.
Elderly people and their carers will be the first in line to receive their shots, the British Government has said.
In America, three former Presidents have pledged to get their vaccines in public to try and build up trust and confidence in the vaccine, various versions of which have been developed at record pace.
Presidents Barack Obama, George Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter each revealed this week that they trust that the vaccines being approved are safe and will work to help others have that trust too.
“I may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed, just so that people know that I trust this science, and what I don't trust is getting Covid,” President Obama said in an interview with SiriusXM.
The American Food and Drug Administration received Pfizer’s vaccine data on Friday 20 November and the review is expected to take several weeks before approval. After that, officials expect the first vaccines to be distributed immediately.
Leniu said in the meantime, she agrees it is safest to avoid international travel into Samoa.
“The decision that has been made by [National Emergency Operations Centre] and the Government is the best, to defer until January,” she said.
“I know the families are really eager to have their relatives home, people overseas really, really want to come home but it’s extremely hard.
“With any situation, the immunocompromised, the babies, the elderly they are high risk for any type of infection.”
But news over the week about the two men who tested positive in quarantine actually not being infectious was a great relief to Leniu. She said it showed both the quarantine system and testing systems are working.
“It’s very reassuring, the way the testing and confirmatory testing with blood and antibodies [was done] because that is how they can tell whether it was the acute stage or the longer-term stage.
“I think we are very blessed […] We are very, very relieved.”
After extending the quarantine period by a week for those who arrived with the two cases on Friday 13 November, the Ministry of Health released the 274 passengers with a clean bill of health on Friday.
The Director-General Leausa Dr. Take Naseri said no one tested positive for the virus, including the two men’s close contacts – the sailor’s roommate, also a sailor, and the older gentleman’s wife. The two pairs shared rooms in quarantine.
Both men are still in quarantine however and are waiting to test negative again over the weekend so that a decision can be made on whether to release them from the National Hospital.
There are three more flights scheduled to repatriate citizens before the end of the year: one on Monday from New Zealand, and two from Fiji on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Samoa Observer understands that the Government has not stopped passengers booked to transit through New Zealand into Apia from flying.
Several people who had tried to fly home on the flight direct from Los Angeles were unable too as the capacity was only 300.
The Government confirmed people on the approved travel list were advised to travel to New Zealand to get on either the Friday 04 or Monday 07 flights.
Monday’s flight will also be bringing another group of sailors home. Samoa Shipping Services says there will be 72 sailors on-board.
A flight to bring 297 sailors home from all over the world has been scheduled for Friday 22 January.