Government keeps quarantine sites secret

The location of COVID-19 quarantine sites in Samoa will not be publicly revealed, says the interim Chair of the National Emergency Operations Centre (N.E.O.C.), Agafili Shem Leo.

Agafili told the Samoa Observer that the N.E.O.C. Committee made the decision not to reveal the quarantine sites for health and privacy reasons, including the threat of stigmatisation of the property owners.

“We have considered all the facets of that," he said. 

"This is Samoa and we fully understand our country. It's not only a health precaution of being stigmatised but also for the owners of these places because it's difficult. We have learned from experiences in other countries.

“We understand our people better and that was one of the main reasons we decided – for safety of those who own the places and the safety of the people quarantined there – it's better not to publicise the names.”

The Samoa Government has come under criticism from members of the public, who have taken to social media in recent months to question the rationale of keeping the quarantine sites discreet, saying residents living next to those premises should be advised.

Earlier last month an elderly Malifa resident expressed concern about the Government’s approval of a hotel within the vicinity of their home being used as a quarantine site.

Kalapu Mauinatu, 66, told the Samoa Observer that reports of Samoa’s first positive COVID-19 case compelled him to think twice about the issue and to criticise it.

“We’ve been worried since the day we were informed that there will be people quarantined here because obviously, we live just beside it,” he said. “It’s like we’re also in quarantine as we are scared to step out of the house, especially after hearing that some stupid heads just love to escape quarantine, putting everyone’s lives at risk.”

In July this year a man who returned home from New Zealand and underwent the mandatory 14-day quarantine escaped from the quarantine site, leading to the Police being called to locate him. 

Discussing the appeal for the quarantine sites to be disclosed, Agafili said the graveness of the matter is similar to that of Samoa’s two positive COVID-19 historical cases.

“It's so sensitive, it's making sure the country is not panicking when they hear about these things. Who is to be blamed when youths go and stone a place, especially if the place is around town? We know the likely consequences of these things.”

As part of the Government’s state of emergency (S.O.E.) orders and related directives, all quarantine sites are restricted to the public at all times.

Only authorised personnel pre-approved by the Ministry of Health and the N.E.O.C. are permitted to enter the sites to conduct required services.

Any person who contravenes any of the restrictions commits an offense and is liable for a penalty under the Orders of the State of Emergency or the provisions of the Disaster and Emergency Management Act 2007. 

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