PEOPLE OF 2020: COVID19 Front line workers
The people of Samoa have a lot to be thankful for.
Today, this nation continues to be one of very few countries in the world without a case of COVID19. While the Government's decision to shut the borders has played a critical part in this, it is the COVID19 front line workers who have been at the forefront of dealing with the biggest risk of Samoa getting the pandemic, which are people arriving on repatriation flights.
Since 21 March 2020 the country has been on alert when the proclamation of a State of Emergency for COVID-19 was activated. That's when this special group of people stepped up.
It only took a Samoan teenager from New Zealand who experienced flu like symptoms, and was the first suspected COVID19 case, to sound the alarm of how vulnerable the country was to a new disease. Although the suspected case was only flu after it was confirmed by the authorities, the Government had learned its lesson from the measles and was not taking it chances.
The S.O.E. was declared on 20th March and effective on 21 March with the country’s borders closed and even church gatherings were prohibited as precautionary measures.
At the forefront of the response effort was the National Emergency Response team that operated under the direction of the National Emergency Operation Centre.
The medical team and experts is often the first people that come to mind when you think of front line workers.
However, their work is supported by many other service providers that are working behind the scene.
Those unsung heroes are airport staff that greet and bid you farewell as you depart the international airports and ports.
Others are airline workers that run the risk of contracting COVID at the first point of contact when they enter the aircrafts.
There are also the quarantine and immigration officers, police officers that enforce S.O.E. orders, the Disaster Advisory Committee, Ministry of Health, hotel operators and their employers.
In order to accommodate the many stranded returning citizens from repatriation flights the hoteliers had to agree to also isolate themselves for the 14 days mandatory quarantine period.
Some of the front line workers that the Samoa Observer spoke to shared nerve wrecking experience they had to go through.
A newly registered nurse that spoke on the condition of anonymity due to employer’s policies recalled how difficult it was to be part of the response team.
“I’m fresh out of school and I got selected to be part of the teams that had to work for one of the very first repatriation flights,” she said.
“The experience is one thing to be proud of but going out there not knowing of whether one of the passengers you check has covid and you might contract it is just nerve wrecking.
“Everyday you do your work not knowing whether you will get to see your family again and if we can survive covid if it entered our shores.”
The experience from the young registered nurse was the share amongst other essential workers that kneeled on their knees every morning to ask for God’s help and strength to keep them going.
The Interim Chairman of N.E.O.C., Agafili Shem Leo in a recent media conference acknowledged the continuous support from the front line workers.
He praised the name of Jesus Christ for being the impenetrable shield and stronghold throughout a seemingly endless battle against covid.
“These are the sons and daughters of Samoa who have wholeheartedly dedicated their lives to serve our country with courage, and meticulousness at our borders, in the midst of our war against this invisible enemy,” said Agafili.
“They are at risk every time they are called upon to process the flights since the declaration of the State of Emergency for COVID 19 in March this year.
“It is almost 10 months ago since this campaign began, and 15 repatriation flights have arrived in Samoa. They work so hard for the country. God bless them.”