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S.N.P.F. members overlook 'social distancing' rules

Members of the public have been queuing on the first floor of the Samoa National Provident Fund (S.N.P.F.) Plaza, despite state of emergency (S.O.E.) orders banning the gathering of five or more people.

On Tuesday a group of about 30 people were seen standing in a queue at the S.N.P.F. Plaza first floor, who appeared to be totally oblivious to the S.O.E. orders or even practise coronavirus (COVID-19) social distancing requirements.

This Samoa Observer reporter estimated over 30 people standing in the queue and in close proximity to each other on Tuesday morning.

But S.N.P.F. Chief Executive Officer, Pauli Prince Suhren, said the COVID-19 threat is already being addressed by the company and this includes allowing five people at one time to enter their office.

“As you know, there is an open air space outside of each one of the four levels of the S.N.P.F. main building – these are very suitable in this case – as you have a free flow of fresh air all the time,” he said.

“Furthermore, we are providing chairs spaced at least 1 meter apart in all directions on Level 1 outside for those waiting to further prevent any aerial transmission of the disease.”

According to Pauli, the S.N.P.F. cannot ask its members to stay as they go to the main office every day to access their financial benefits.

“Finally, we cannot ask people to stay away as our members come here every single day to access their financial benefits. Our part is to ensure that they carry out their business as safely as possible.”

S.N.P.F. member Atamai To’aletai, who was among the people who queued in front of the office on Monday, told Samoa Observer that he was applying for a short-term loan and was surprised to see the queue.

“I was surprised when I saw the long queue. I was always early before the S.O.E. was declared and before this pandemic even existed but I came late today because I thought there would be less people due to the S.O.E but I guess not,” he said.

Asked how important it is for him to take precautions against the virus, he said he feared the global pandemic but his family needed the money. 

“I mean as you can see, I’m trying to stay at least 1 meter away from the person before me so I’m very scared of this virus.”

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