In anxiety, frustration and fear, think safety and prevention first
The wait for the result of specimens from Samoa’s first COVID 19 case, sent to New Zealand for further confirmation last Friday, feels like an eternity. It is keeping everyone anxious and understandably so.
This nation has been under a State of Emergency (S.O.E.) for the past eight months despite not having a positive case. It is why when the news filtered through last week about Samoa’s first positive COVID19 test, it came with panic and a lot of uncertainty. It was the realisation of this nation’s worst fears, given all the challenges locally and internationally.
The developments also created a lot of confusion, which has led to many speculations, rumours and false alarms in the community, especially on social media space. People just cannot make anything out of these changing test results, one day it’s a positive, next day it’s negative and on another day, it’s both a negative and a positive.
We’re pretty sure there is a perfectly logical scientific explanation for the results but people are not interested in any of that jazz. They just want to know whether Samoa has a confirmed case so they can get on with life and do what they can to protect themselves, loved ones and the community.
This is why the long wait for the official test results from New Zealand is creating frustration and fuelling anger among members of the community. In an age of advanced technology and the availability of instant testing facilities in a place like New Zealand, the three-day wait does feel odd. Don’t get us wrong here, if that’s the process then let us wait but you’d think for something as pressing as COVID19, given New Zealand’s experience with the virus, we should have the results by now.
Alas we have been waiting since Friday. The response in keeping people up to date has not exactly been assuring. More than 24 hours after the swabs left Samoa for Auckland last Friday, the Government issued a one-sentence statement on Saturday night which said: "The consolidated swab tests results will be released when we receive the test results from samples send to New Zealand."
Sunday came and there was no absolutely no word. Pressed by this newspaper on Monday morning on the back of mounting pressure from members of the public, the Interim Chair of the National Emergency Operations Centre, Agafili Shem Leo, said the Government was “anticipating the results hopefully sometime today (Monday).” That also did not happen.
On the front page of the newspaper you are reading, we have been told that hopefully the results would arrive today (Tuesday). “Specimen from the COVID 19 potential case in Samoa which were sent to New Zealand for further confirmation have been received by the New Zealand authorities. This was confirmed by the ESR Laboratory in Wellington early this afternoon,” a statement from N.E.O.C. said on Monday night. “The test results are expected to be released once we received advice from New Zealand tomorrow (Tuesday).”
Last night, N.E.O.C. called a press conference essentially repeating what they had in the written statement. Well in that case, there is nothing else we can do but wait.
In the meantime, we want to take this opportunity to urge members of the public, including many people who have called, emailed and messaged this newspaper demanding answers, to remain calm. In times like this, we understand that people are fearful and anxious. We also understand the frustration with the lack of information.
But this should not give people the license to come up with their own stories, spread false reports and create even more panic. Every time somebody posts an unconfirmed and ultimately false report about the status of the pending tests, you are not helping this country. You are raising someone’s blood and sugar levels, which could lead to other health complications and potentially death.
What’s needed in days like this is cool and calm heads that bring reassurance and confidence where there is so much fear and uncertainty. We need our people to be sensitive and exercise restraint especially with the spread of false information.
We accept that the Government’s response, in as far as public relations go, has been far from perfect. But last night’s press conference shows that they are at least trying. In crisis, we all need to be standing and working in solidarity, with everyone doing their part to ensure our nation is served, informed and most importantly protected.
The common enemy is COVID19, not the Government, the media or each other. We need to focus all our energy and resources to ensure this existential threat is eliminated and locked out of Samoa if at all possible.
So what can you do? Make sure you have a mask, keep the social distance, wash your hands at all times, ensure the orders of S.O.E. are observed and stay away from crowded public places unless it is absolutely necessary for you to be there.
Let’s also not forget that COVID19 is not the only challenge, with the rainy weather continuing, the common flu and other illnesses are spreading uncontrollably. Can you imagine if we get a positive case of COVID19 now and how that would completely overwhelm our limited health resources and personnel?
Remember, prevention is better than cure. Let stand together to protect our people and our nation. Have a safe Tuesday Samoa, God bless!