Clinical signs COVID-19 cases were historical, Leausa says

The Director-General of Health, Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, has confirmed there were clinical indications Samoa’s two positive cases were historical before confirmation from New Zealand arrived on Monday. 

On Wednesday, Leausa said that as well as the blood test confirmation conducted in New Zealand, there were several signs that the two men who tested positive for COVID-19 were not infectious, because they had been sick with COVID-19 in the past and since recovered.

Firstly, the testing machines used to test the two men’s swabs revealed the swabs had very little genetic material of the virus, also known as a low viral load. For clinicians, this is either evidence of a very early infection or a very old one. 

If a machine also takes significantly longer than usual to produce a result this is also an indication that there is a low viral load, because it is taking longer for the machine to find the virus in the swab. 

Leausa confirmed the Cepheid GeneExpert test cycle is a 45-minute one but did not disclose how long it took for the two positive test cases to reveal a result. 

The second sign was that, in the case of the first man, a 23-year-old sailor, between his first positive test and his move into hospital quarantine, he had not shown any symptoms. 

This is also true for the 70-year-old man, who tested positive on Friday 27 November and five days later is still symptom free, Leausa said.

These two signs together were fairly good confirmation that the positive tests were proof of historical infections, which can be caught on tests even long after a person has stopped being infectious.

New Zealand’s blood tests that identified antibodies in the blood, or proteins that develop to fight the virus, was the final confirmation they needed.

He said Samoa has the capacity to conduct blood tests on island but that it needed to import a special agent to conduct the test.

Asked whether he intends to insure Samoa is fully able to conduct blood tests for COVID-19 in the future, Leausa would not say.

On Friday, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi pre-emptively announced the two cases were historical, before tests had been conducted in New Zealand. 

Leausa explained that Tuilaepa had had been brief that there was a possibility the two cases were historical.

“That test shows us that that was an ending point of an infection, if it was an acute infection it would have had a high viral count and the test would have picked it up much quicker but this one, it’s like it has been a while [since the initial infection].”

Leausa reiterated that the two cases are historical and not contagious. 

Tuilaepa also said he intends to bar Samoans who tested positive in the past from entering Samoa, and has made it mandatory for intending repatriation flight passengers to declare their COVID-19 history.

But with historical cases having been proven not to be contagious, people who previously tested positive but have recovered pose no risk of infection to the community.

Asked whether he agrees with Tuilaepa’s decision, Leausa would not make a comment, saying instead that the question was “cheeky.

“You want me to speak against [the Prime Minister]? I don’t want to answer this question, I don’t want to answer it because it’s a cheeky question.”

*Translation by Adel Fruean and Soli Wilson

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