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Young coronavirus patient returns negative test

A 16-year-old who had earlier twice tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Samoa has returned a third negative test for the virus, the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi confirmed.

The Prime Minister did not specify when the third test was undertaken, but it is understood that all 200 plus arrivals in managed isolation were to be tested on either Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.

The 16-year-old and his mother are quarantined at the national hospital.

The young patient and his mother flew from California after transiting via Auckland at which they spent 26 hours, according to a press statement issued on Saturday. 

Tuilaepa said the main issue to focus on was that the country’s apparent coronavirus case had returned a negative test.

"It is a negative, which means the virus is weak," said Tuilaepa.

"Remember, it means, the child has strong antibodies to combat the virus, just like the first ones before him. 

"That is the good news, but it is better to further ensure safety."

Speaking during his weekly TV3 programme on Wednesday, Tuilaepa assured that Samoa remains COVID-19 free.

He said the main focus of a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday afternoon was about the upkeep of border security following a three-day lockdown in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, where signs of a more infectious U.K. strain of the virus had been detected. 

Auckland, which had a snap rise to Alert Level 3 following will revert back to Alert Level 2 on Wednesday, allowing schools and businesses to reopen. 

The remainder of New Zealand will move to Level 1, meaning people no longer have to observe social distancing or limit the size of gatherings.

"It shows how very worried they are and it is a similar feeling for the Cabinet too and so we have advised our Committee to monitor closely as we are 11 days away from our next [repatriation] flight," the Prime Minister said.

"So we should be carefully monitoring because there have been occurrences that should not have happened but it has through the most recent flight.

"It is the usual; they underestimate the situation. The mother who came made her way to Samoa to assist her child's return, but the child had tested positive."

The next scheduled repatriation flight is arriving in 11 days and is understood to be coming via Fiji.

Tuilaepa said the Cabinet is looking at two options should the virus outbreak situation deteriorate in neighbouring countries, including options such as stopping the repatriation flights altogether or prohibiting the elderly from travelling to Samoa.

The Prime Minister said it may come to a situation where arrivals are limited within a certain age limit to ensure the virus does not enter and spread in Samoa, as the elderly are most susceptible to the virus.

Samoa currently remains on Alert Level 1 as the National Emergency Operations Centre (N.E.O.C.) confirmed on Monday afternoon that the 16-year-old boy and mother, who has not yet returned a positive test, is asymptomatic.

They are in good health, N.E.O.C.'s interim chair, Agafili Shem Leo, said.

But authorities are investigating as to how the boy managed to apparently contract the virus despite strict border controls, including that all incoming passenger arrivals present a negative test for the virus within 72 hours of their departure. 

Agafili said the boy’s COVID-19 test sample will be sent to New Zealand on the next Friday cargo flight for genome sequencing to figure out how and where he apparently became infected. 

All the young passenger’s paperwork met stringent border control requirements, including that he provide a negative test for the virus taken 72 hours before departing for Samoa. 

The Director-General of the Ministry of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, said there are two possibilities for how the boy may have contracted the virus: either travelling between Los Angeles and Auckland or while waiting in transit in Auckland.

N.E.O.C. is conducting contact tracing and inquiring with authorities whether anyone sitting near him on his flight has since tested positive too. 

Official New Zealand Government regulations say that international passengers are not allowed to transit through the airport for a period longer than 24 hours. It is unclear how the two passengers were able to circumvent the restriction and the Government is investigating Agafili said. 

A follow-up email to Agafili regarding the transit matter on Wednesday did not receive a response. 

The 160 passengers on the Friday flight and 60 arrivals from Fiji will stay in quarantine for three weeks instead of two, Agafili said. This has become protocol when someone in the group tests positive or is suspected to have caught the virus.

The nurses and health workers who interacted with the 16-year-old and his mother were sent straight into a designated quarantine facility for health workers.

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