COVID-19 cases historical: P.M.
Two Samoans who tested positive for COVID-19 contracted the virus months before arriving in the country and had historic cases they never disclosed, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi says.
Tuilaepa made the announcement during his programme with Radio 2AP on Friday evening.
His comments came after a press conference on Friday morning that a second person - a man aged in his 70s - flying into Samoa on a 13 November repatriation flight had tested positive for the illness.
The country’s first suspected case has returned both positive and negative tests for the disease, in tests analysed both here and in New Zealand.
Speaking during his programme, Tuilaepa said the two suspected cases are much the same.
"Both suspected cases were tested negative upon arrival, however, follow-up tests revealed that they have tested positive," said Tuilaepa.
"They both came on the same flights, although the sailor was [originally] in Italy and the 70-year-old father came [via] Melbourne Australia.
"But that's not all. We also discovered that both males have been tested positive way before they departed for Samoa."
The sailor, who was recorded as the first positive coronavirus case for Samoa, is a historic positive COVID-19 case dating back to August, according to Tuilaepa.
"The 70-year-old man was also tested positive before that (before August)," he said.
"However, they recovered and were given clearance, after discovering that the virus was no longer there (in the two males' bodies)."
Tuilaepa said authorities were unaware that the two males were tested positive before, as such information was not declared by the two men, upon arrival in Samoa.
"But what happened was, these men did not inform our (health) officials that they were tested positive with COVID-19 before,” he said.
“That's why we didn't know, but they were both tested negative upon arrival."
Health authorities in other countries refer to such cases as "historic" cases of infection and say they are generally not infectious though they can produce positive tests.
“Individuals can return weak positive tests if they have been infected earlier in the year,” a spokesperson for New Zealand's Health Ministry said on 16 October.
"These cases can emerge after the person has a respiratory illness that is not COVID-19, such as a cold or influenza. Residual remnants of the virus can be picked up through swabbing, with inflammation often bringing forward virus particles that were not previously picked up."
In announcing the news, Tuilaepa signalled that new regulations would be imposed requiring incoming passengers wishing to travel to Samoa on forthcoming repatriation flights to actively disclose if they have previously tested positive for COVID-19.
"We will be very strict and make sure that all the passengers for the remaining repatriation flights for Samoa, a declaration that they have never been tested positive before,” he said.
"We will not allow anyone who has a history or has been tested positive before with COVID-19, to enter Samoa. We will monitor that area closely, to make sure that there will be no repetition of the situation we are in at the moment."
Effective immediately, it will be compulsory for all returning residents to sign a declaration to verify if he or she has contracted COVID-19 before under regulations passed by Cabinet.
Under a second regulation, the Government said it would prioritise returning Samoan citizens from New Zealand or Samoan students from Australia making their way home on upcoming 4 December and 7 December repatriation flights.
Samoans living outside of New Zealand planning to transit home through Auckland will not be afforded transit priority.
"Any country beyond that, we are not going to consider that,” Tuilaepa said.
"Our main focus for the upcoming repatriation flights will only be on our returning citizens from New Zealand. For Australia, we are looking at bringing only our scholarship students.
"That's the same for our students in Fiji.
"The remaining repatriation flights will go as scheduled but we will be very strict on monitoring the criteria I mentioned earlier."
Tuilaepa believes that if the criteria above are closely monitored for the upcoming repatriation flights, there will be a slim chance Samoa will get another positive case for coronavirus.
The Prime Minister called for calm amid the second news of another positive tested case of coronavirus in the country.
Tuilaepa said having a positive case of coronavirus in Samoa was expected as it happened in other big countries of the world.
"This is not new," he said.
"A country can take all the precautions and safety measures to fight the virus and to avoid it from getting into the country, but it can be affected with the second wave of the virus through its returning citizens entering the country.
"And it has happened in other countries as well; it happened in America, China, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
"Even though the number of cases in those countries has gone down and makes it seem like they are safe, once they opened up an opportunity for their citizens to return home, there [was] a chance that people who have already carried the virus could enter the country.
"And that is something we're all aware of."
However, Tuilaepa said he was hopeful that Samoa could be spared.
"But we could not ignore the cry of our children and people who are stuck in other countries, wanting to return to our shores and be with their families and loved ones,” he said.
"That is why we opened our borders giving our people the opportunity to come back home while carrying out all the appropriate safety measures that are required to do to make sure that the virus would not get to Samoa.
"And I am confident that our methods are in line with New Zealand and Australia.
"So we need to remain calm."
In saying so, Tuilaepa took a look back at a time when the country was struck by the deadly measles epidemic that claimed more than 80 lives of Samoans last year.
"Think about it, only two (people) have been suspected; no one has died,” the Prime Minister said.
"Compared to the measles that struck our small island last year, we lost more than 80 lives due to the epidemic and thousands contracted measles.
"So why are we scared about a disease that is yet to claim a life in Samoa when we did not worry during the measles last year?
"That is why we ask everyone to keep the faith.
"Panicking is one of the devil's tricks of blinding us, Christian, from seeing and believing in God."
A press statement released by the Government Press Secretariat on Friday evening confirms the new compulsory regulations mentioned earlier by Tuilaepa.
"Cabinet today approved new compulsory regulations for residents returning from overseas on repatriation flights," the statement reads.
"Effective immediately, it is compulsory for all returning residents to sign a declaration to verify if he or she has contracted the COVID19 or not before they are allowed into the country.
"Compulsory medical tests and health requirements prescribed by the Travel Advisory are also re-enforced.
"Also today Cabinet approved changes to conditions for passengers to be allowed for the two flights from New Zealand in early December per recent Cabinet Directive.
"The flights will be restricted only to returning Samoan residents from New Zealand.
"Also Samoan students from Australia who have completed their studies and will be transiting through Auckland on their way home are included.
"The transit privilege is for the Samoan students from Australia only and does not include Samoans living outside of New Zealand planning to transit home through Auckland."
The two flights are scheduled for the 4th and 7th of December.
The statement says that repatriation flights for Samoans in Fiji including scholarship students, missionary workers and others are being organized with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.