China to send forensic pathologist to Samoa

A medical team including a forensic pathologist is due to arrive in Samoa next Thursday from the People’s Republic of China.

The pathologist will be among 165 passengers arriving from China, reporters were told during a press conference hosted by the National Emergency Operations Centre (N.E.O.C.) on Tuesday.

The interim Chair of N.EO.C., Agafili Shem Leo, and Director-General of the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.), Leausa Dr. Take Naseri, announced the forensic pathologist's imminent arrival.

“The charter flight is transporting those who are working on projects in the country. [They] have been stuck in China for a long time since the borders were closed between these countries,” Agafili said.

The workers are employed in various government projects that include improvements being made at the Matautu wharf, the police academy and “other big projects” like the hospital, he added.

“There is also our forensic pathologist traveling on this airplane,” said Agafili.

The country's lack of a forensic pathologist had overwhelmed the mortuary at the national hospital, where bodies subject to criminal investigations, including one victim who died up to a year ago. At one point, there were 18 bodies at the morgue. The deceased were later moved to a custom large-scale freezing unit. 

China offered to help the shortfall in response to the backlog crisis. 

“They are coming with a forensic pathologist who will carry out work that has been waiting for a long time to be completed. There is also another medical team from China who will replace the medical team that is already here,” he said.

“The time is up for the medical team that is here because they come for six months at a time.

“It is an offer from China. They offered to bring in a forensic pathologist."

He noted that in New Zealand there are only eight forensic pathologists making it a country from which manpower can not be easily sourced.

“There was so much noise because we did not have a forensic pathologist but it’s not easy. A lot of doctors don’t want to work in the area [of forensic pathology]. Sometimes you have to examine bodies that have been dead for years. It’s a difficult area,” said Leusa.

Arrivals are being thoroughly screened in order to safeguard the country from the COVID-19 pandemic, he assured reporters.

Most passengers traveling on the charter flight have been vaccinated, said Leausa.

The Government has asked for the passengers to complete COVID-19 and blood tests and provide documents that verify their vaccination history.

Last week, a flight arrived from New Zealand carrying 243 passengers.

Arrivals to Samoa are required to quarantine for three weeks.

Leausa said some Samoan residents who had got “blocked” in China when national borders were closed would be on the flight. 

Meetings between officials at N.E.O.C. and the Chinese Embassy are continuing to ensure that all travelers meet requirements to enter the country, he said.

“They are also willing to cover the cost of their quarantine,” Leausa said.

Some 24,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine doses are now in Samoa’s possession.

“The people arriving, they are traveling into the country to carry out very important work, most especially the people of this country. We can’t keep them outside of the country. They have fulfilled many safety requirements – testing [for COVID-19] and taken blood tests,” he said.

“When they arrive, they are quarantined…as you all know, our vaccines are here. This is the last part of keeping our country safe.”

On 30 April, another flight from the United States of America is scheduled to bring a further 100 passengers into the country. 

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