Without a cure, the only protection is prevention
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his administration’s quick response to the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic has so far been commendable.
While a lot of preventative measures are not ideal and inconvenient, the fact Samoa remains one of the few countries in the world that is coronavirus-free can largely be attributed to the Government’s early response. Which makes sense.
Given the tragedy of the measles crisis and the lives of 83 people lost recently, it would have been completely irresponsible for the Government to act any other way.
But from what we’ve seen, the Government has obviously taken the lessons from the tragedy of the measles epidemic as a platform upon which it has based its decision to respond and do so immediately to COVID-19.
Indeed, from the early decision to screen incoming passengers at different ports of entry to turning away people at the airport who came from countries where the virus was spreading, tough decisions needed to be made and they were.
The truth is out there. As of Wednesday afternoon, Fiji has already confirmed four cases of the virus. Elsewhere in the Pacific, French Polynesia has confirmed 23 cases while Guam has 29. A 68-year-old woman in Guam became the Pacific's region's first death related to coronavirus.
Around the world, COVID19 cases have surpassed 400,000 with the death toll more than 18,000. It is not slowing down. The Director-General of the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said something very telling on Wednesday.
Said he: “It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases. 11 days for the second 100,000. And just four days for the third 100,000.”
Now that tells a story. These figures, alongside the situation in New Zealand and Australia where COVID-19 appears to be spreading rapidly, makes the Government’s response even more important in a bid to stop the virus from reaching our shores.
At the time when this piece was being compiled, Samoa was awaiting the result of seven suspected cases. During the weekend, the first six cases came back negative, which means Samoa already has had 13 suspected cases.
We are a small country with a very small population. Our health system is already overwhelmed by non-COVID19 related illnesses and it will not be able to withstand another outbreak, should this virus reach our shores.
All it takes is one positive case and that could set off a potentially fatal situation no one wants. This is why the Government’s adoption of ‘prevention is better than cure’ mantra is commendable.
Does it guarantee that Samoa will remain protected? Absolutely not. But we have got to do the best we can to help ourselves. At the end of the day, it is about protecting our families and loved ones.
Have there been problems? Of course there have been, on both sides of the ladder. The Government’s decision-making and the implementation of their orders have sometimes been left wanting.
The way some of these messages are being communicated to the masses has often left us confused more than anything. Sometimes you wonder if the right hand is talking to the left hand about what they are doing?
The releasing of public information about the number of cases has been questionable. After the confusion during the first weekend when Prime Minister Tuilaepa clearly contradicted the denial from the Ministry of Health, the updates about the number of suspected cases just don’t make sense.
Then there are issues with logistics. With flights being suspended, how will samples of suspected cases from Samoa be sent to New Zealand to be tested? Of the last people arriving before the total shutdown on Wednesday night, who is subjected to the 14-day quarantine rule and who is not?
Away from the Government, there is a lot to be said about what appears to be civil disobedience from members of the public in relation to orders issued as part of the state of emergency. Leading that front are churches who defied the public gathering ban and forged ahead with their Sunday services. In a bid to curb this, the Government has introduced some heavy fines, which have become effective immediately.
On any other day, we would say these are not ideal and they appear strong handed but not today. During these difficult times, everyone needs to do their part. The Government, regardless of how we feel about them, have a role to play and as members of the public, we have ours.
Of course there are questions. Of course there are consequences and ramifications. But the ultimate concern is the protection of precious life, which should be the primary focus of everything we do.
As of today, there is still no cure for the coronavirus. The only protection is for us is to keep it at bay, if at all possible, for as long as we can.
In the meantime, stay home, wash your hands and stay safe Samoa, God bless!