Passengers with cases within six months denied entry

The Government has released new rules for incoming passengers who have had past infections of COVID-19 to ban anyone who had a previous case of the virus within six months from entering the country.

The Prime Minister initially announced on Friday that those who had previously tested positive to COVID-19  - even if their infection has run its course and is no longer contagious - will be denied entry to Samoa. 

Now, a person with a historical, or past, case of COVID-19 wants to enter Samoa, they must not have contracted the virus at least six months before they travel. 

After six months, a person who has previously tested positive must also undergo three consecutive negative tests conducted one week apart, and a blood test conducted three days before their arrival in Samoa.

These results have to be sent directly to the Ministry of Health not presented to airport staff, as is the current procedure.

International research has found that a person can test positive for COVID-19 well after their infection is over and their recovery is complete, and are no longer infectious.

COVID-19 is typically at its most infectious four or five days before the disease’s symptoms begin to show. When symptoms are showing and begins to wane in the days after the symptoms first appear.

Research has found people who recover from the illness stop being infectious and a threat to others.

The testing Samoa uses for active COVID-19 infections is a polymerase chain reaction (P.C.R.) test, which Samoa uses to process tests on island. It is this form of test that people must have performed before entering Samoa.

But in order to conclusively determine a person’s COVID-19 infection status, a blood test is required.

The blood test can identify whether the body has produced antibodies in order to fight off COVID-19.

It can tell clinicians and patients whether or not a patient had an infection that they were unaware of, either because it was a mild case or attributed to another kind of illness such as the flu. 

As well as the testing expectations, incoming passengers now must fill out an extended medical clearance form with a certified medical practitioner, declaring whether they have ever tested positive for COVID-19 in the past year.

The new rules have come in the wake of two men who tested positive for COVID-19 while in quarantine, with their tests identifying old infections which they have long since recovered from. 

Two men returned positive COVID-19 tests last month after arriving on a repatriation flight from Auckland. 

But further testing conducted in New Zealand showed that one man had contracted COVID-19 in May while the other had it in August. 

With several days between local P.C.R. tests and additional blood tests overseas, Samoa was in a state of limbo, uncertain whether the two men were contagious and at risk of passing the highly contagious virus to others.

But as the days passed neither patient developed symptoms, nor did either of their roommates in quarantine.

Finally on Monday 30 November, the Ministry of Health could conclusively say that, with all evidence considered, neither man is infectious.

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