Samoa’s first suspected COVID-19 case and five others negative, P.M. confirms

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 21 March 2020, 10:48PM

A 21-year-old woman, who became Samoa’s first suspected case of COVID-19, has been declared coronavirus-free, with her test coming back negative.

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, delivered the news late Saturday night following a special Cabinet meeting to discuss the progress of the COVID-19 state of emergency.

“The test has come back and the woman from Letogo is not affected by COVID-19 as well as another five (people),” Tuilaepa said. “This is good news.”

The announcement by the Prime Minister comes after a three-day wait for Togitasi Faimasasa, of Letogo, who came from New Zealand to celebrate her 21st birthday in Samoa.

The Ministry of Health announced last Wednesday that the young woman had become Samoa’s first suspected case. Fears about her movements and people she might have been associated with in Samoa led to the closure of Maluafou College on Thursday and Samoa Primary School on Friday.

Prior to the announcement by Prime Minister Tuilaepa, Ms. Faimasasa’s sister told the Sunday Samoan on Saturday night that she was still being kept at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital.

“My mother is praying for the results,” she said.

On Saturday afternoon, the Ministry of Health issued a statement confirming that seven others had been suspected and that their tests had been sent to New Zealand.

But Tuilaepa on Saturday night acknowledged the government of New Zealand’s assistance in getting the results a lot earlier than it was initially anticipated.

“With regards to the test that was done, the result has been communicated to us using technological developments with New Zealand,” Tuilaepa said.

The Prime Minister did not give details about the five other patients who had tested negative.

 “They appeared to have the symptoms. The difficulty is that these symptoms (of COVID-19) go together with the symptoms of the normal flu,” the Prime Minister said.

“So we are awaiting the outcome of two more tests. But there is still fear that there are some carriers so we have to be careful.”

The Prime Minister reiterated the call on members of the public to adhere the orders under the state of emergency. He also confirmed that the Government is considering a request from American Samoa about some of the citizens, including Church leaders, who are stuck in Samoa due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Health confirmed they are continuing their work to protect Samoa from the virus.

“The Ministry is presently following up all persons who came into contact with these patients for medical examination to determine if they need to be isolated,” the Government statement said.

 “They will also be interviewed to find out who they have also been in contact with recently. This process is called contact tracing and it helps the Ministry to manage and stop the spread of diseases.

 “We encourage all persons who have traveled or transited through countries affected by C.O.V.I.D.-19 to monitor themselves for the development of fever, cough and shortness of breath. If you have any of these symptoms please contact the Ministry of Health C.O.V.I.D.-19 call centre or a doctor for advice.”

A coronavirus call centre has been established to take calls from the public. The numbers are: toll free number 800 6440, and 21183, 21176, 21173, 22914, 22241 and 24402.

M.O.H. has the following recommendations for minimising the risk of widespread transmission of C.O.V.I.D.-19:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and clean water or alcohol-based hand-rub.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw it into a bin and wash your hands after.
  • Wear a mask only if you are a sick patient in the hospital, or a healthcare professional working directly with a patient.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Call a healthcare provider if you feel sick for medical advice
  • Avoid unnecessary travel
  • Avoid mass gatherings and keep a distance of 1 meter from people with flulike symptoms.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces (i.e. door knobs, counters, phones).
  • Avoid unnecessary visits to hospital, limit family visits to hospital to 1 person, and keep children under age 19 away from hospital

*Reporter Adel Fruean contributed to this report.





By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 21 March 2020, 10:48PM
Samoa Observer

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