Party leaders question Govt. over historical COVID19 cases

Leaders of two political parties have questioned the Government after it has been revealed that Samoa's two positive COVID19 tests are "historical."

Afualo Dr. Wood Salele, of the Tautua Samoa Party, and La'auli Leuatea Schmidt, of F.A.S.T., believe the Government should have checked the medical records of the passengers to make sure they had not had the virus before they were allowed to come to Samoa.

The announcement that the two Samoan men who tested positive for COVID-19, contracted the virus months before arriving in the country was made by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi last week.

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. 

"It's something that has happened in other countries of the world, so we should've learned from it and be thorough in checking all the passengers coming into the country," Afualo said.

"There are cases such as the two positive cases we have now in other countries. If they contracted the virus before, it is possible that they carried it with them to Samoa."

Afualo said it was "unfortunate" and "sad" that the passengers did not declare such important information upon arrival in Samoa. 

"They should've provided this information when they arrived and it's quite sad that they did not disclose it with our officials."

And while Afualo claims that the Government had failed to detect the two historical cases, he applauded the Government's move of adding new regulations to strictly monitor the passengers coming on the next repatriation flights. 

"They (government) should've focused on that (checking medical history of passengers) from the beginning," said Afualo. 

"But it's too late to think about the past, we should learn from it and do better now so it will not happen again. It's good to know that the government is going to look at that area closely and monitor it well so hopefully, the same mistake will not be repeated."

Similar sentiments were shared by the leader of the Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.).

"I don't know why we missed out on such important information when these two men arrived," La'auli said. 

"We have been in lockdown for nine months now and we should've been extra careful not to make a mistake. We cannot afford to make any mistake at the moment, because it is too risky. 

"We are a small island nation, and if we are not careful with the control of our borders, we will be in big trouble."

In saying that, La'auli made a plea to the government "not to play the blaming game" and learn from what happened. 

"They should not blame others and make excuses right now. Every second and every hour counts. 

"We don't want to waste time. We need to be very very alert at all times."

Nevertheless, the two leaders also rebuked comments from Prime Minister, Tuilaepa comparing this crisis to the measles epidemic that struck the nation last year and took more than 80 lives of Samoa's population. 

Tuilaepa made the comments when he called for calm amid the second news of another positive tested case of coronavirus in the country. 

He 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."

The P.M. went on to say: "We should remain calm.

"Think about it, only two (people) have been suspected; no one has died yet,” 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."

Afualo believes the two diseases are very different, therefore, the P.M. was wrong to use measles as an example. 

"For the measles, there is a vaccine that can cure the disease," Afualo told the Samoa Observer. 

"That's not the case for this global pandemic. We need to be very careful and cannot afford to make any mistakes. 

"It was wrong of him (Tuilaepa) to compare measles to COVID-19 because two are very different diseases. We need to do all the right precautions and be very alert at all times."

La'auli thought it was "inconsiderate" of the P.M. to make such comments about the 80 plus lives lost to the measles epidemic. 

"How can a leader say that the nation did not panic during the measles when it took more than 80 lives of our people," La'auli said. 

"He should be mindful of the things he says on air because people are listening. At these difficult times, the leaders need to send the right message out to our people to encourage them in these times. 

"And that is not the way to tell a nation to stay calm. We should never think lightly of the measles that took the lives of our people. 

"Maybe he said that because he did not panic and did not care at all. But for the people who lost their loved ones, there is no doubt that they were uncertain, they were worried and scared. 

"Now is the time to work together to ensure that no life will be taken because of this disease. One life lost, is one too many. 

"Life is precious, and it is a gift from God. Therefore, we should do the right move now, so no life will be taken away because of this pandemic." 


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