Early release risks pandemic protection: doctor

A senior medical doctor, Leituala Dr. Ben Matalavea, says the early release from quarantine of incoming vaccinated passengers arriving in the country is putting the public health at risk.

The Clinical Director of National Kidney Foundation (N.K.F.) conveyed his concerns in a public post online during the weekend saying Samoa has sacrificed too much to be complacent now.

The global pandemic, which started at the beginning of last year, is not yet over, he reminded.

“So someone got out of managed isolation in [seven] days [after] stating [he was]already vaccinated before [he] travelled to Samoa," he said.

"He may be protected but Samoa is not protected yet."

Leituala said that being vaccinated does not guarantee immunity from being a carrier of the virus and spreading it to others.

“Being vaccinated protects but it does not mean the one who gets vaccinated will not carry the virus and transmit it to others,” said Leituala.

“We have done so well for over a year now sacrificing a lot. We cannot be complacent now the pandemic is not over yet.”

On the other hand, the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) Director General, Leausa Take Naseri said those who are fully vaccinated are “immune” from the virus.

According to Leausa, there were a total of eight passengers who were released early from quarantine, those people that came on April 16’s Auckland-Apia flight. One of them included Chief Justice, His Honour Satiu Simativa Perese, who was released from isolation after seven days in quarantine.

Passengers returning from overseas typically must undergo two or three weeks' quarantine.

The health chief denied that Justice Satiu had been afforded special treatment and that the policy had been in place for several weeks for passengers incoming from the American territory.

Leausa said the reason they allowed for the early release of those from American Samoa is that there are no cases there. The Government has since extended that policy to those arriving from New Zealand, he said.

(American Samoa recorded its first case of COVID-19 last week; the man currently in quarantine had arrived from Hawaii on a repatriation flight the previous week.)

“When they come and they are fully vaccinated and so they are immune from the virus. The precautionary [measure] is why they are given seven days in quarantine in any case the vaccine does not work,” he said.

“They also undergo tests upon arrival and before they are released from quarantine."

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