National Emergency Operation Centre mans measles response

Work to manage and end the measles epidemic ravaging the country will now be organised by the National Emergency Operation Centre (N.E.O.C.), activated under the State of Emergency protocols.

On Friday evening, Acting Prime Minister Faimalotoa Kika Stowers-Ah Kau officially declared Samoa was under a State of Emergency, as the measles epidemic threatened the security of the country.

The following evening, the implications of that were announced: measles, mumps and rubella vaccines are now mandatory, children under 17 may not attend public gatherings, and more.

The new N.E.O.C is required under the National Disaster and Emergency Act 2007.

It will organise disaster information and data, coordinate action plans, work across communities and government bodies on welfare as well as take responsibility for logistics like getting and delivering resources.

The N.E.O.C is now the national coordination and response outlet, and will take all enquiries through the telephone number 997. 

Alongside this centre, the Ministry of Health has consolidated its response within the Health Emergency Operations Centre (H.E.OC.) with its own email address and direct lines. The centre can be contacted at [email protected] and 66506 or 66507.

The full functions of the NEOC, as per a press release from the Government are:

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Planning – manage the collation and evaluation of disaster information and data to develop the N.E.O.C. S.I.T.R.E.P. (situation report) and Incident Action Plan.  

Operations – Coordinate and manage the incidents in the field and assist in the formation of the Incident Action Plan of the N.E.O.C.   

Logistics – Responsible for obtaining and delivering resources as well as providing all logistics service and support functions for the incident and the N.E.O.C.

Community Welfare – Coordinate with Evacuation Centre Activation and support with Sectors, Line Ministries and Village Response Teams

Public Information Management, Safety and Legal Section - Responsible for the formulation and release of information about the incident to the public.  Preparation of Legal Documents, Safety and security of the N.E.O.C. and its staff.

Samoa faces an inevitable further spread of the highly contagious virus, with more than 700 suspected cases and 48 laboratory test confirmed ones.

To date, 16 people are dead of measles or measles-related complications. Just one of those deaths was an adult, a 37-year-old.

The rest are all children, largely under two-years-old.

The State of Emergency is active for 30 days, until at least December 15 or until the Government call it off.

Hotspots in the region are also facing measles outbreaks. In American Samoa, two cases were discovered and immediately quarantined. When a blood test in Hawaii confirmed their measles status, the government declared a health emergency and closed its borders to non-vaccinated people.

In Tonga, there are 251 either confirmed or suspected cases as of November 12, whilst in Fiji there were four confirmed cases as of November 16.

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