COVID-19 sailor likely not infectious: health chief

By Sapeer Mayron 07 February 2021, 3:00PM

Health Chief Leausa Dr. Take Naseri has set the record straight over the COVID-19 patient currently in isolation, saying his antibody test showed the likely signs of his being a historical infection.

Meanwhile, the sailor and all other repatriated passengers on last month’s flight have tested negative again in their most recent test on Thursday evening. They have one more week in quarantine to go. 

Last week in a press conference, Leausa said the man’s antibody test showed high levels of the antibody that is present at the outset of an infection (IgM), when in fact he had high levels of the antibody present after an infection has passed (IgG).

But when approached about the mistake on Thursday Leausa corrected himself, and said the man had high IgG levels, not IgM as previously stated. 

“His IgM was very low while the IgG was very significant,” he said.

He said it was not enough to conclusively say whether the man is a historic, non-infectious case, but that the antibody test is a good sign.

The 23-year-old sailor arrived from Italy on Friday 22 January, having passed a negative test and tested negative on arrival to Samoa as well.

He first tested positive the following Wednesday. A blood test was done to follow up, and he was tested again on Thursday 4 February where he tested negative, according to National Emergency Operations Centre Interim Chair Agafili Shem Leo, in a phone call on Saturday. 

A microbiologist from the University of Auckland Dr. Siouxsie Wiles said in the case of a suspected historical test, the sailor should have been tested again three or four days after his first positive result, rather than a whole week later. 

“What will happen now is if he has been infected his virus levels will have gone up and then back down again, and he will be back to being possibly negative, possibly positive, but not infectious,” she explained earlier this week.

Asked about this on Thursday, Leausa became defensive and said Samoa follows the same testing protocols as New Zealand.

“Who said,” he asked about the advice to do further testing earlier.

“This is also what New Zealand is doing, the same thing, they do it periodically. We don’t have the luxury of [testing] every day. They do their thing, we do our thing, we know what we are doing.

“New Zealand does not tell us what to do.” 

Dr. Wiles is an Associate Professor and a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to science communication and microbiology. She is independent of the New Zealand Government and was the 2020 Supreme Winner of the Women of Influence Awards for her role in the country’s COVID-19 response. 



By Sapeer Mayron 07 February 2021, 3:00PM
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